Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Welcome to 2009

So 2009 is here.

What are my hopes for 09? well health and happiness would be nice.

Aims? To get out more often, make it over to Scotland more often.

Thanks to everyone who left comments on my blog in 2008, to those who dropped by, hope you found something worthwhile and finally to all.

Happy New Year.

Moon and Venus taken earlier this evening, should have waited as Venus moved closer to the Moon. Olympus E-3, + Zuiko 50-200 + Zuiko EC1.4 Teleconverter

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Panasonic SDR-S7, take Two!!

Well so much for getting a better video editing program. I tried to edit some video files from the SDR-S7 on a mates PC running Adobe Premiere and it wouldn't open the files. After further investigation it seems that Panasonic (and a few others inc JVC) while recording mpeg2 actually compress it and save as an .mod file which most 3rd party editing software can't read. As far as I can tell most Cardcams and HDDcams save as .mod and while there are ways to work around (changing the file association from .mod to .mpeg) there are one or two issues. I don't fancy having to rename a folder full of clips one at a time so it looks like I'm stuck with using the supplied editing software. No big deal I suppose given the intended use but it would have been nice if they had made it clear that although the camera can record mpeg it actually saves them as something else.

I did find one editing program that looks like it can handle .mod files but sod's law comes into play as it doesn't display Panasonic SDR-S7 file properly if you've shot in 16:9 format as Panasonic uses a non-standard 704 x 576 frame rather than the standard (IIRC) 720 x 576.

The program is Cyberlink's Power Director, there's a review of the software Here

Cold War, Damn Cold!!

I went out with a mate yesterday to visit an old Cold War era Radar Station. It's pretty wrecked now as the building have been used to house sheep, I think the Station was decomissioned in 1957. The Radars were situated about 1 mile from the station. It was bitterly cold but I was carrying my Montane Flux so that went from pack to back at the 1st opportunity and it wasn't so bad after that. I noticed a bit of snow on the Mull of Kintyre.

Minibull Design

I've just received my order from Tinny at MBDC, I haven't had time to try it out the stoves yet apart from filling them up and giving them a burn. I like the look of the Mini Atomic but any of them will easily store in my Woodstove as a back-up. I ordered a Gramweenies Kitchen set which is nice and light, 330g all in including one bottle of fuel. That said my Woodstove set-up is pretty competitive weight wise at 258g although that doesn't include fuel or the foil windshield.

The Blackfly #4 fired up.

Gramweenie Kitchen c/w Mini Atomic

Own Design Woodstove c/w Tibetan ti 900 pot

Monday, 29 December 2008

Panasonic SDR-S7 Cardcam

I got a new camcorder for Christmas, a Panasonic SDR-S7. I've just been messing around with it so far but my initial reaction is that it's nothing special but it'll do. It's really small, records to SD card and the IQ is reasonable as long as you use the best quality setting. I can't use the highest setting for posting on Youtube anyway as the file size would be too big and thats all I want it for anyway. Unfortunately the supplied software is rubbish for a variety of reasons, it's not exactly intuitive. There are a couple of things that I really don't like, 1. you can't upload the files direct from the SD card via a reader, you need to use the camera as an external drive (not sure if all Cardcams are like that), 2. the software makes it unnecessarily difficult to save the files where you want and make them easy for the software to access. In fact unless you're prepared to let the software do as it likes then it becomes a bit of a chore. One other issue is that while it can record 16:9 format, if you output at the best IQ setting only the supplied software can actually display it at 16:9, try to view it on anything else and it gets squashed/distorted to 4:3. You can of course output at best IQ 4:3 or at a slightly worse IQ 16:9. Strangely if you output at 16:9 for viewing on 3rd party programs the file size is the same as 16:9 output for the supplied software but the IQ isn't as good.

Anyway, looks like I'll be needing to buy a decent editing program that gives me more options when it comes to encoding the files not to mention a better UI.

Oh well , at least it's an improvment on my old Olympus C5050 that I was using as a video cam.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Woodstove & GCS Pot

I mentioned in a previous post that I was interested in seeing if a performance pot such as a Primus ETA or Jetboil Flux Ring pot would result in improved performance of my woodstove. I tried my Jet Boil GCS pot today and was pretty pleased with the result. I used a fairly basic secondary foil windshield that I normally use with my gas mini stove/Alpkit Mitymug cookset which offered enough shelter. I started with 67g of dry wood to see how long it would take to bring 500ml of cold tap water to a rolling boil. I managed a rolling boil in 7mins & 3secs and had 20g of wood left so it took 47g of fuel to boil 500ml of water. I was surprised that there wsn't more soot on the pot to be honest, the sides were clean although there was a fair amount on the base as you would expect. I've added 3 un-edited video clips below, apologies for the poor quality.

Woodstove & Jetboil GCS Pot Pt.1

Woodstove & Jetboil GCS Pot Pt.2

Woodstove & Jetboil GCS Pot Pt.3

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Field Knife, BUND DONGES 5110-12-126-2475

I mentioned yesterday that I was waiting for 2 items off ebay. Well one arrived today, a Bundeswehr sheath knife. It's actually a Bundesmarine utility knife but I thought it might make a good camping/bushcraft field knife. The Sheath is stitched in scandanavian style and has a plastic liner, the belt loop has a button hole to allow you to attach it to a ........... button? The knife itself has a pretty rough finish, the handle in particular being fairly square edged, the blade is pretty sharp but would benefit from general finishing on a fine Lansky stone. The blade is pretty stiff with only a little flex and it's fairly thick at the spine, a good 3mm which is thicker than my Frosts Mora.

I decided to shape the handle slightly, mainly just rounding off the corners to make it more comfortable. A quick run with a round file and finish with a piece of emery tape improved things. I finished it off by rubbing some Nikwax into the handle and attaching a blue lace. I guess the blade is Stainless Steel as it's a Marine knife but it still gets a good shower of sparks from a Fire Steel.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Santa claus is Real!!!

Ok, I believe, I just got back from shopping this afternoon to find that a parcel had been delivered by courier. I'm waiting for 2 items from ebay and my order from MBDC but this package was in a box 3' long. It couldn't be from Tinny at MBDC as I only ordered Thursday past. I checked the labels and it was from a photographic company but I hadn't ordered anything. When I opened it I found a Manfrotto Modo tripod and a carry case, no invoice no information, nothing. It did say IPC Media on one of the shipping labels and the only thing I can think of is that it was a prize for having some pic's published in 'What Digital Camera'.

I submitted a set of pic's a year ago but after being told they'd been accepted I heard no more about it. I contacted them about 4 months later and was told they'd lost the images, to cut a long story short I suggested that we just forget about it.

Now I'm wondering if they were published after all and if so what issue they were in.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Thoughts on Pots!!

I was reading Tinny's (MBDC) blog recently and his findings regarding the Jetboil and Primus ETA pots got me thinking about cooking pot design. It seems that when the Jetboil burner was used with a Heineken pot the results were pretty much the same as any run of the mill stove. Tinny also noted that the Primus ETA pot worked well with a meths stove so the conclusion has to be that the technology used in the pot is at least as, perhaps more, important (but less glamourous) that that used in the burner.

I happen to have a Jetboil GCS pot that I'm unlikely to use but I think an experiment is in order, how efficient will my woodstove be if I use the GCS pot rather than my usual pots?

It's strange to think that although MSR came up with the XPD Heat Exchanger way back in the late 80's that the only development since has been the Jetboil, the Primus ETA and of course the MSR Reactor. I think that's a pretty poor show to be honest. Given the number of Cookware brands out there you would think that someone could think outside the box rather than simply producing the same old, same old, sometimes with nothing more than a change of Brand Name to distinguish one from the other.

What's this then??

A work in Progress.

Shallow Depth of Field, Photography

I've been experimenting with a fast prime lens in an attempt to use DOF to isolate subjects/areas in a scene. The fastest lens I have is a Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 lens designed for Olympus OM cameras. I'm using it on an Olympus E-3 via an OM mount to 4/3rds mount adapter. I like the effect but I wouldn't want to use it all the time.

Woodstove #1 Final Design

I finally got my Tibetan ti 900 pot and finalised my design for a woodstove to fit. I ended up with an open base design which means I can store a meths burner as a back-up, unfortunately it means that the ash falls through onto the ground. A tin foil ashtray or similar solves that problem. I also managed to get some welded wire mesh and I've decided to use it for the pot-stand. All in all I'm happy enough with it but I've got a few other ideas to try
Regarding the Tibetan ti pot, it's quite nice with a matt finish but not as nice as a Snow Peak pot. The lid is a pretty loose fit as it sits on the pot rather than in desipte the flared section at the top of the pot. If the lid did sit in the flared section then the stove would need to be shortened so I'm not too concerned. The stove weighs in at 133g, stove and pot weigh in at 260g.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Woodstove Again

I made a modified Firebox today to suit the stove I made for the Tibetan ti 900 pot, I used a good secondary windshield this time and got a rolling boil in 8 mins for 500ml.
I think my stove is at or near the limit as far as heat output is concerned. The firebox is smaller dia than the pot, going bigger would simply put heat past the sides of the pot so I don't need to go wider on the firebox, I could go for a taller firebox but I'm not sure if there's any point, the pot can only absorb so much heat and any additional output would be wasted fuel. As it is 2-3 x 6 inch lengths of 1"x1" firewood split in two and broke into 2" lengths is all the fuel it needs to boil 500ml.
The windshield is critical IMO, it needs to be close to the pot but not starve the fire of air, I'm still drawn to a hanging windshield/heat exchanger rather than one which sits on the ground. I think a mesh potstand is better than a semi solid one with a large opening to feed in fuel. The open section tends to act like a chimney and the flames really shoot out and that is simply wasted heat.

I'm still trying to source welded wire mesh (Hardware Cloth) for potstands and grate, need some sheet aluminium too. Both are expensive as I need to buy way more than I need. I suppose I could sell the surplus on ebay.

Monday, 15 December 2008

New gear Ordered

I've just placed an order with Tinny at MBDC. I ordered Blackfly #4 wick stove and I'm looking forward to giving it a try. I also splashed out on a Tibetan ti 900 pot from Trek-Lite which I hope will hold my Mini Woodstove. I think I'll call my woodstove the "Einzel Kocher", nice and pretentious don't you think ;-)

Gone Retro

I was messing about yesterday and decided to unearth my XC skis. They've been hanging in the loft for a few years so I gave them a bit of a clean, dug out my boots and gave them a little polish. I don't think they've been used in about 10 years, maybe we'll get enough snow this year to give them a run out.

I bought this little lot from Colin and Karen at Braemar Nordic Ski Center (Braemar Mountain Sports)while on a course,they were selling out of a wooden shed at the back of the bunkhouse then. I remember Colin demonstrating an MSR XGK, I was still using a Trangia 27 at the time but I went on to buy an MSR Whisperlite Int.

I still have the sales catalogue from back then, a few A4 pages with a list of prices, looking at the current range there have certainly been a few changes.

Gro-nell Telemark Boots

The Bunkhouse/Cottage at Braemar Nordic Ski Center as it was then.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Woodstove mk5!!!

For goodness sake, I really need to let it go.

I had posted my efforts on Outdoor Magic and got an interesting idea from Captain Paranoia regarding separating the airflow to the main burner from the airflow to the upper vents in the firebox. I had a vague idea of how I could modify my design to incorporate Captain's ideas so spent another day in the garage/workshop trying it out.

I made my Firebox as before, cutting off the base, shortening the can and pressing the base back on. For the outer part I needed 2 x 1250g cans. I used 2 cans so that I would have a top and bottom with no holes allowing me to cut out a hole in each to fit the firebox. I cut the smooth section with the lip (the actual top of the can) off one can and then shortened it to about 10mm less than the height of the firebox. The top smooth section with the lip I kept to use as the base. I then cut the base off the second can and pressed it onto the open end of the can I was using for the outer. I then cut a hole in the top and bottom to allow me to press the firebox into place. Once the holes for the firebox were cut and prior to pressing in the firebox I drilled a series of holes to feed air to the firebox upper vents/Jets, that done the firebox was pressed into place. The base section that I had previously removed and kept was then drilled to supply air to the base/grate of the firebox, as this section had the rim the main unit stacked securely on top.

One other aspect of Captain Paranoia's design was to have two rings with holes matching both the base intake holes and the secondary vents holes, these would rotate and allowing the air supply to be adjusted offering control of the airflow to both grate and upper vents independantly. I haven't got around to that yet but it shouldn't be too difficult.

The pic's below should help make the build clearer.

Left, base to be pressed onto outer can, right, section to use as base. Both cut from one can.

Firebox slightly taller than outer can, outer can with base from other can pressed on, both ends cut for Firebox.

Firebox pressed into place.
The secondary air supply is now isolated from main burner/grate air supply.

Main Section (Outer/Firebox) seated on base (Rimmed section cut from top of other can) Mesh potstand simply rests on the top held in place by the edge of the can.

Stove set up to operate, the pot is a Stainless Steel one from a set of 3 I bought today, £3.99 for the set from B&M.

The stove fits the pot nicely.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Woodstove mk4, Mini Stove

Another day another modification!!

I was looking at pot sizes thanks to a question asked on Outdoors Magic and it seemed that if I really cut down on the size of my stove that it would fit into a Tibetan Titanium 900 pot. The pot measures H93mm x Dia115mm, my mk3 stove measured H125mm x Dia98mm (Firebox H80mm x Dia7omm). Clearly by reducing the size, particularily the firebox, the heat output would be reduced, the question was would it be sufficient. The 2nd issue was that I wanted to be able to use a Trangia meths burner as a back-up and I wanted to store it in the base of the woodstove, pic 1. I decided to make the outer can H90mm and as I needed 25mm to store the meths burner my firebox could only be H55mm, had I decided to forget about the meths burner I could have increased the size of the firebox to H75mm. I made the inner and outer cans as I had previously done the only change being shortening the outer can by cutting off the upper smooth section rather than the bottom section which saved me having to drill the base air intakes through a double skinned section (the double skinned section is now at the top) I flattened the inner lip on the firebox can to allow the trangia burner to fit, pic 2, the grate was left loose to allow it to move up when the trangia burner was stored, pic 3. The end result was a stove smaller than an Alpkit Mitymug.

I tried the stove, again using the Mitymug with 400ml of cold water, I managed a strong rolling boil in under 14mins without a secondary windshield, I had to remove the pot briefly to get the fire going after overfilling it so not too bad given the size. I'm now thinking about swapping the Trangia burner for something like an MBDC Mini Atomic

pic 1

Inner can (Firebox) with Trangia Burner in stored position.

pic 2

Trangia burner fitted to Firebox ready to use.

Finished Stove, Firebox pressed into outer can. Compared to a Mitymug

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Woodstove mk3

I was working on my woodstove again, I managed to get a bit of mesh for the grate so made a new firebox to fit the mk2 outer can. The improved air supply made a big difference both in the burn rate and the amount and size of the pieces of wood that I could use without choking it completely.

I had thought about making a smaller stove, same diameter but shorter so I made a new firebox and outer by cutting the smooth section off the base, removing some of the ribbed section and pressing the smooth section back on, I did that for both cans. Again I used the mesh grate but left it loose in the bottom of the firebox. One other thing I discovered was that if I flattened the inner lip at the top of the firebox (the lip is left when the pull-off lid id removed) a trangia burner fits perfectly and works as a back-up. The Trangia burner can be packed away in the base of the stove as the grate being loose simply moves up out of the way. I made a slightly different windshield/potstand but it probably doesn't make much difference. I tried an Alpkit Mitymug 3/4 full and managed a strong rolling boil in about 12mins, not really fast but I wasn't using a secondary foil windshield, the temperature was below freezing and the firebox is pretty small.
Reasonably happy with the result but there are a few modifications I want to try on the mk4 model.

Mesh Grate, about 20mm. Slightly smaller would be better as the kindling has a tendency to fall through.

Alpkit Mitymug, Rolling boil.

Full Power.

Trangia Burner