Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Further SHOT Show Reports

I'm kinda jumping around a bit with the SHOT Show reports, but sometimes life's just like that! What I'm going to do is come back to the start and post some pictures and more details on the trip. There are a lot of bloggers posting about all the cool hardware and gizmos displayed at the show, and I will definitely show some of that too, but first a little about just getting there.

I went into some detail a few posts back about the transportation fun, lousy weather, and so forth, but here's a bit of pictorial coverage that I didn't get a chance to post earlier.

De-icing the 737 in Bellingham

The drive from the South end of Whidbey Island to the airport in Bellingham, WA. took just under three hours, and the road conditions weren't much fun with the snow. The driver's who had no idea how to drive in snow (drive at all?) made the trip even more exciting. Our flight out of Bellingham was delayed for a while so they could de-ice the plane. It had close to two inches of snow and ice on it.

Not a job I'd want!

Once de-iced, we were on our way to Las Vegas. There was a pretty good tail wind blowing, and it was a rather bumpy ride. We made up some time on the way, and got to Las Vegas almost on time.

Looking out my window on the 14th. floor of the Stratosphere Casino Hotel. 

The Las Vegas airport is relatively large and busy. I caught the tram to the main terminal, then caught the shuttle bus to the hotel. In Reno the bus to your hotel is free, and it goes straight to your hotel. In Las Vegas you have to pay for the ride, and it stops at several hotels along the way.

Looking farther to the left. You can just see the edge of the Las Vegas Strip to the right.

I got checked in, and drug my stuff up to the room. The room was quite nice, and the bed very comfortable.

The spectacular Stratosphere Tower.

The Stratosphere has an 1,147 foot tall tower as part of the hotel and casino. It looks kinda like Seattle's Space Needle if you covered all the iron work with sheet rock. The Space needle is only 605 feet high, however, so the Stratosphere Tower is almost twice as tall. There is a roller coaster and a couple of other thrill rides at the very top. You can also jump off the top with a cable and harness attached, and free fall for over 8oo feet before they slow you up and set you on the roof of the hotel below. Interestingly enough, they sell underwear in the gift shop at the top. Seems like you wouldn't need it until you get to the bottom, but that's just speculation on my part.

Upper part of the tower at night.

Lower part of the tower.

After getting settled in, I headed out to go exploring. On the first two floors of the casino there are several restaurants. All of them aren't at all inexpensive. On the second floor there is a McDonalds, That's more in my budget. Better still, just across the street from the hotel is a Carl Junior's burger place. As fast food goes, they have some of the best burgers out there. I had dinner there a couple of times.

After more exploring and wandering around, it was time to hit the sack, as the next day was going to be a full one, as I was planning on spending the entire day at the SHOT show, and then get together with some bloggers for dinner and conversation after the show.

More to follow......................


Friday, January 20, 2012

SHOT Show Report Number Something or other.......

Lisa Munson in action.
The size of this show is hard to believe. I've spent the last several days here, and there is still maybe a fourth of the show I haven't seen. The number of booths and the number of people I've seen and met with is amazing. I just met Larry Potterfield, owner of Midway USA. Yesterday I ran into Lisa Munson, whom I haven't had a chance to visit with in a couple of years. It looks like I may be setting up some lessons with Lisa to improve my competition shooting.

Thanks to the horrible weather in Western Washington, I have decided to change my flight home from today (Friday) to Sunday. This should allow the weather to warm up and for the rain to melt most of the snow. I was really not looking forward to driving from the airport in Bellingham to the South end of Whidbey Island in the snow, a drive of about two and a half hous on good roads. It's a bit ironic that I will have one day extra here in Las Vegas to kill, since I'm not a gambler and I'd really much rather be back home working on getting the new milling machine going and making parts. There certainly are folks who would be tickled to have an extra day here, but I'm not one of them.

The show is just a couple of hours from closing, and the press room is mostly empty. In a  few minutes I'll be meeting up with Nelson Dymond of the Ruger Rimfire Series, and John Allchin of Allchin Gun Parts to go get some lunch. All things considered, the NSSF has done an outstanding job of putting on one of the largest trade shows in the world.

I hope I can be here again next year.................


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day One - SHOT Show

Early Monday morning I headed out the door towards Bellingham, WA to catch my Alaska Airlines flight to Las Vegas and the SHOT Show. The weather forecast  was for snow and ice most of the way, and that's pretty much how it was. Actually, the conditions weren't all that bad, but the scary part was the other drivers who didn't have a clue as to how to drive in those conditions.

When I finally got onto the airplane, our flight was delayed while they sprayed de-icer all over our airplane, as it had about an inch of snow on it. Once de-iced, off we went, and it was an uneventful flight to Las Vegas. Once in Las Vegas, I caught the shuttle to the Stratosphere hotel. I had nothing scheduled for the rest of  the day so I just wandered around the hotel and casino. I had a deluxe Carl Junior's burger for dinner, then hit the sack for the night.

This morning I caught the shuttle  to the Sands Convention Center. I checked in at the media center, and then wandered into the Press Room  to check it out. 

Signing in and getting my Press Credentials.

Partial view of the Press Room. Thanks to Budweiser for sponsoring it!

I have met a number of folks I know already, and met a few bloggers I haven't met in person. I even met some of my friends from Holland and the European Steel Challenge. I'm curre3ntly using the free WiFi here in the press room.

I think I should head out and start cdhecking out the show itself!

UPDATE: It's almost 3:30 and my feet are not at all happy! Lots of talking, and concrete floors aren't helping, but it's not a surprise as it's about what I expected.

NEWS: I met Mr. Tanfoglio in person and he told me that Tanfoglio will be importede and sold under the Tanfoglio name, sepatate from EAA! WOO HOO! You can expect to see a whole lot of Tanfoglios in the near future in this country. With new importers and distributors (and especially support) they are going to be very good gun for the money, and a very good gun overall. Yay!!

More later....................


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Off I Go...............

Tomorrow in the early hours I'm heading out, driving about two and a half hours North to the Bellingham, WA. airport, where I will catch an Alaska Air 737 for a two and a half hour flight to Las Vegas. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I will be wandering around the SHOT show, and Friday I fly back home, returning to Bellingham, and driving back home, getting home Friday evening.

I will be attending as Press, and I hope to bring back some interesting stories for this blog. I should mention, however, that I am not an "Equipment Junkie", and I will be focusing more on the SHOT Show experience, more than individual hardware. Of course, if anything cool and shiny does catch my eye (inevitable, I suspect) a post on that will be written, for sure.

There a a number of Gun Bloggers attending, and I'm sure I will meet a lot of them while I'm there. Dan and Caleb from GunUp.com have arranged a number of blogger meetings at some of the manufacturers booths, so that should be interesting, as well. I'm sure I'll also meet up with a number of shooters and industry folks I know, so it should be a lot of fun.

Stay tuned, I'll post when I can..........


Kitsap Steel Challenge Report

Yesterday I got the chance to venture over to the Kitsap Rifle & Revolver Club in Bremerton, WA. for a full eight stage Steel Challenge match. I had to be out the door at 5am to be able to be there just a little bit late at 8:20am for sign up and the shooter's meeting. It was raining and snowing when I left home, and didn't look to promising for the rest of the day. After two ferry rides and some driving, I arrived at the range. It was close to freezing, a wind was blowing, and it was raining. It didn't look like it was going to be a very pleasant day weather-wise, but since I hadn't shot since late October except for a few rimfire rounds a couple of days ago, I definitely needed the practice to get back to where I was last Fall.

About midway through the match the rain stopped, and a lot of the cloud cover went away. The wind stopped blowing too, and that by itself makes it seem a lot warmer. With a bit of sunshine peeking through it was still cold, but in comparison, almost balmy!

My first few stages weren't too good, as I was clearly rusty! As the day progressed and the weather improved, so did my shooting, and by the end of the match it was going much better. Not great, but better! Usually after a match I hang around to help put away the targets and target stands, but since the weather was starting to close back in and snow was forecast, I decided to head home as quickly as possible. It was a good thing I did, as part way home it started snowing pretty good, and it was sticking. It was snowing enough that I passed a snow plow going the other way, and he was plowing. Fortunately the snow was coming from a relatively small cell, and ten or twelve miles later I was out from under it and it wasn't snowing.

By the time I got home my back was really starting to hurt, as drawing from a holster uses some muscles that apparently don't get used for too much else, and they were really getting sore. Once home I lay down on the heating pad for a while, until it started hurting less. Once the pain had subsided, went out like a light. It had been a very long day, and I was bushed..........

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Going To The SHOT Show!

Much earlier this year one of my sponsors said they were going to send some gun bloggers to the SHOT Show. I was told that I'd be one of the ones to go, for sure. Unfortunately, that sponsor wasn't able to afford to send any bloggers to the show after all. I just figured I wasn't going to get there at all, because of the cost.

However, after talking to some folks I know in California who are going, they made some suggestions, encouraged me to go anyway, and even helped to line up a room mate to share the hotel cost. I researched airfares, and it turns out that both Alaska Airlines and Allegiant fly direct out of Bellingham, WA. to Las Vegas. Allegiant offers some really low fares, but after you add in all of their bizarre extra fees and charges, it ends up with Alaska being basically the same price, and with Alaska you get to ride on relatively new Boeing 737's instead of DC-9's of unknown vintage, but old, for sure. There's a saying in Alaska "If it ain't Boeing, I AIN'T GOING!" and I feel that way too.

They have a media day at the SHOT show on the day before the show opens, but that's already filled to capacity, so I won't be able to go to that. I will get to see the show itself, though, and that will take several days. I think I read somewhere that the show floor itself is 600,000 square feet. My feet hurt just thinking about it!

Anyhow, next Monday is travel day to get there, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will be spent seeing the show and covering it for the blog, and Friday will be travel home day.

It should be really interesting to finally make it to the SHOT Show.

Note: For those of you unfamiliar with the SHOT Show, it is the Shooting, Hunting, and outdoors industry trade show put on every year by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. For more info, check out shotshow.org

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Updates, Misc., Etc.........

Since just before Christmas when I ended up in the hospital until now there has been so much going on that I've barely had time to live it, let alone blog about it!

Shortly after Black Bunny was crippled by the (expletive) daughter of our (expletive) neighbor, I had a tooth get abscessed. It was a tooth that had been root-canal-ed, but that we hadn't got crowned yet. Unfortunately, it split into two teeth, each with one root. Doctor Bob, my dentist, suggested pulling it out and putting in a titanium stud. After about six months, he'd make a new tooth and mount it to the stud. We'd been talking about doing that for some time, but the abscess meant it was decision time. Regardless, the tooth, both parts, had to come out to resolve the infection. It was already hurting pretty badly, and two hours in the chair getting it completely removed didn't help. The pain was beyond what over the counter stuff would control, so he prescribed some stronger pain pills and sent me home to heal up. The next night another tooth started hurting, even worse than the pain from the extraction. Since I had some pain pills, I keep it to a nearly bearable level until the next day when Doctor Bob arranged to have a look at the second tooth to go nuts in two days. The second tooth had been partially root-canal-ed and crowned maybe eight or ten years ago. Dr. Bob pried off the crown and cleaned out the inside where the infection was cooking away, put in some special stuff to keep it from flaring back up, and put the crown back on as a temporary. Two places going crazy, one on the upper and one on the lower jaw, was generating quite a lot of pain, so I spent a couple of days trying to balance the effects of the pain pills with keeping the pain down to a bearable level. Finally the pain diminished enough that over the counter stuff was strong enough, and now the pain is pretty much gone, although the area where to tooth was pulled is still a little sore.At the same time as all the dental adventures I was also helping a number of liquor store clients with hardware and software tech support.

The wall and the door on the left is new, along with the new sheet rock and insulation on hte other walls and ceiling.

The new controllers are about the size of a PC, but this was state of the art in the early 80's.

Had to figure out a way to keep the heat from going up the stairwell. This seems to work well, and it's actually quite convenient.

I don't have the coolant and tank hooked up, or the shields to keep the coolant contained, but it's not far off now.

 In my spare time (!) I was working to get everything up and running with the new milling machine in the expanded machine shop in the barn. The new wall is fully in, insulated, sheet rocked, taped, sanded, and painted. The other walls are now furred out, sheet rocked, taped, and painted. The same with the ceiling. Two new 220 volt circuits are now wired in, complete with the sockets in and all trimmed out with cover plates, etc. I wired in two separate circuits, one for the spindle motors, and one for the rest of the controller system, so they would be isolated from each other.   Two more 110 volt outlets are also installed. Two doors are now hung, and everything is painted, caulked, and trimmed. The floor now has three coats of epoxy paint. In short, the carpentry part is just about complete.

The CNC milling machine has two main components, the milling machine, and the GE 1050 Controller, which actually runs the milling machine according to the CNC computer file you have loaded into the controller.

 The controller and milling machine are connected together by four huge wire bundles that go from one to the other in an overhead steel raceway. To separate the milling machine from the controller so they could be separately moved, a huge number of wires had to be disconnected from inside the controller and the wire bundles lashed to the milling machine for transport. We documented everything so I could put it all back together once it was in it's new home. It took the better part of a day to get the wire bundles back into the controller and get them all connected. Before I powered it up I triple-checked all the connections, and it all looked perfect. Once I powered it up, though, it didn't want to fully start up. More checking found one pair of wires that, going by the documentation, could be hooked up either of two ways. One wire was black, the other green. Looking really closely with a flashlight, I saw some very faint writing of the letters "GR" behind the connector with the black wire on it. That had to be it! I swapped the wires, and tried it again. This time it started up and all of the display and controls seemed to be working. In checking it out, though, I found that the spindle would go up and down and the table would move in and out, but the table would only move to the left, but not to the right. I theorized that the X Axis (side to side) servo wasn't getting all of it's control signals, so it would only move one way. Each servo has it's own controller circuit board in the controller, so I decided to have a look at the X Axis controller board. To get to the controller board you have to remove a big cooling fan, and then a big aluminum cooling fin assembly. Sure enough, inspecting the board closely with a flashlight revealed three blown resistors on the board. When this board was manufactured they were hand assembled with a soldering iron, so replacing the resistors shouldn't be to tough of a job. I disconnected all of the servo board wiring and put in a spare board. No one locally had any resistors like I needed, so I ordered some, and swapped in the spare board. I can repair the original board  when the resistors arrive next week. This time, when I powered it all up everything worked just like it should!

This particular milling machine has two spindles so you can machine two identical parts at the same time, so it has two separate 3hp. 3 phase 220 volt motors. The controller, the controller circuitry on the milling machine, and the servo motors all run on 220 volt single phase. Since I don't have 3 phase power available, I have to produce it myself. In the old days there were two ways to do it. You could use a converter that was basically a single phase electric motor driving a 3 phase alternator. This worked well ,but it was (and still is) quite expensive. The second way was to use a single phase to 3 phase converter box which "manufactured" a third phase using capacitors and so forth. It worked, but your 3hp. motor would only produce 2hp., so you either had to go to bigger motors, or live with less power. Now there is a much better way to get your 3 phase power, and it borders om magical! There is now a device called a Variable Frequency Drive" or VFD for short. The one I got is about the size of a lunch box, and through digital electronics not only converts single phase to three phase, it also lets you select the output frequency of the three phase power. Standard is 60 cycle (OK, Hertz, if you insist!!), but with a VFD you can select any frequency up to 200 cycles! Since the motor speed is determined by the frequency, the VFD then becomes a motor speed control as well. You can even hook up a potentiometer and a knob and mount it on the front of the machine so you can change motor speed simply by turning the knob. Tonight I powered up the VFD for the first time, and it does exactly what it says. In addition, it also has a built in "Soft Start" feature where it gradually, over a second or so, brings the motor up to speed. This is a lot easier on motors and equipment. All that is left now is to mount the VFD on a heavy duty bracket, and then connect the three phase wiring from the mill to the VFD. That should probably happen tomorrow sometime.

All that remains for the milling machine then will be for me to learn how to program it and start making sight rails and mounts for sale. I've got some good designs I've developed over the last few years, and getting them into production will certainly help to keep food on the table...............

All contents copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and beyond, unless otherwise noted