Category Archives: Other things

You can stand under my umbrella …

OK, so I told you that I got a Unimat … so, what do I do with it?

Well … the first thing is to fix my patio umbrella. Last year the (cheap) umbrella that I got failed. The rope broke. This was due to the wheel at the top that the rope turns on … it broke and fell out (into the post), so the rope was rubbing on the metal and well it didn’t like that.

I used a makeshift coat hanger hook to keep the umbrella open for the summer.

Now that I have the Unimat I could make a new wheel.

I got some new tool bits (Taig set from Lee Valley), an 1″ diameter acrylic rod, and new cord line rope (you can actually find “patio umbrella rope” on Amazon).

DSC00724It’s been about 35 years since I used a lathe so it took me a long time (machinist time) to replicate the broken wheel … I had to “learn” how to use such a small lathe with thick material.

… anyway, I think it turned (hmm, sounds like a pun there) out very well … though there was a lot of mess since the wheel was only about 1/2″ in diameter. One thing I noticed about the original wheel was the sides are cut through with a slot … this is actually the part that failed first. When I made the new wheel I did not slot it first before I fitted it into the umbrella … I am not sure why they did that, as the wheel spins freely.

Oh, and when you use the vac to clean up the workspace make sure to keep important things away from the area … I almost “lost” an important hex screw that secured the tool post.

Now one thing I will say about repairing a patio umbrella … it’s a pain in the ass if you haven’t done it before.

I should have stated at the beginning … when you take apart the crank, make sure you document. In my case I should have taken off the cover on the other side of the handle and really looked at the latching mechanism … make sure to document what place everything is, otherwise you end up scratching your head and cursing for half an hour … and possibly (like me) end up with some extra washers. Also, melt the ends of the rope to a nice point as you may have to thread them though some small holes.

Waz DAT ?

Sooo, a couple of days ago I heard a small snipped of a song on TV which I remembered that I liked a lot … then I remembered that I actually had a copy of it on tape … yes, TAPE.

Back in the olden days we used to record music on magnetic tape, but I ain’t taking about yrrr typical compact cassette, I’m talking about Digital Audio Tape. Sony introduced DAT in 1987 … it recorded 16-bit digital on magnetic tape and supported recording program numbers and ID’s, which is why it was most common in recording studios. Back in my yuut I had much money, and being a tech geek, I thought paying $600 (I was able to get it at cost price, and it was the lowest consumer model) was great for a digital recorder.


Sooo, back to the story … I rummaged around my tapes and found it … Panic in Detroit, by David Bowie. Great !!! I popped it into my Sony DTC-750 DAT deck and created an MP3 on my MacBook. Hmm, since I am here, lets look for some other songs … and that’s when the problems appeared. It started with not pulling the tape back into the cassette (a DAT loading is like a VHS tape … hmm, not sure how many of you remember those either … the tape gets pulled out and wrapped to a helical scan drum), so when it was ejected it left the tape exposed and crinkled. I realized that there was a problem with the pickup spools not being engaged by the motor properly … or the motor is dying, as FF and RW are very sluggish !!

Well, since I don’t have any cameras that I need to work on (actually, that is a big lie as there are two cameras that need the seals replaced, but I am stalling on that job) I am going try to get this thing working.


I did some presearch on the web to see if this was common or if anyone else had documented taking this thing apart … and I was in luck.

It was not too difficult to get the main part out.



DSC03994Looking over the gears, I did not see anything obviously broken.

Stuff turned, moved …

Hmmm, so I put it back together and seated it back in … powered it up, and started watching the mechanisms as it loaded, played, reverse play … ah, there seems to be a problem here.

When the reverse play is engaged, the drive motor does not move … so this causes the pickup spool not to turn … which in turn causes the tape to turn into a pile of spagetti.
DSC03993 Well, the motor does turn and the belt looks ok … so I am guesing the motor is dying (the thing is 30 years old).

I figured that it probably was not worth it to get a replacement part … so I just sprayed some Lighter Fluid into the openeings, and hope for the best. I thought it would clean out any gunge (even though it would flush any lubricant on any bearings).

Letting it dry, I put it back together and exersized it by FF and RW a tape over and over … well, it appears my bet paid off … now I can sit back, listen, and relive the 80’s.



I was dealing with the dreaded issue with iPhone cords fraying at the ends … I used liquid electrical tape on them in the past, but I found that eventually it hardens too much after time and breaks off, or the cable starts fraying at the point where the liquid electrical tape ended.

Searching the web I found, and tried, a solution described by Liem Bahneman … Teflon Tape.

Actually the tape can’t be called “Teflon” tape as DuPont does not make this product anymore and it is a trademarked name … so it is PTFE tape, or plumbers tape.

Just start wrapping it around the affected area. Keep it tight and don’t be afraid of using a lot of it.

Just pull/tear it off when you are done.

The PTFE material does a nice job of sticking to itself so you do not need to adhere the ends.

Looks good and is flexible so to reduce the fraying in the future … thank you Liem.