Saturday, February 16, 2013

Goal Setting, Achievement...and Building A Watch

This is about goals.
Why build a watch?
My watch will look a little different. 
I think it would be cool to wear a watch I make myself. That's all, and that's enough.
Don't laugh too hard, but I won't blame you if you want to laugh a little. I will succeed in this endeavor.

I'm writing this on a computer I built. Computers are bigger than watches, but they're no more complicated than building a watch. I didn't make the mother board in this computer and I don't plan to make my own watch movement, so I'll confess I'm skipping the hard part of making a watch.

I think (and I could be wrong) that if I can build my own computer, I should be able to build a watch.

I have a habit of success when it comes to goals I set for myself. I was an Eagle Scout by the age of fourteen. I wrote (so far) ten books and published them.

Now I want to build a watch. Yeah. I can do this.

How? I'm not sure...yet.

I started collecting watches a couple of years ago. I have several of them now. I have some Chinese mechanical watches, and they work pretty well. I have a couple of Seiko automatic watches and they work great! I don't need another watch, but I have the watch bug so I'll probably keep buying them as I roll along this path called life.

This is kind of an evolutionary path for me. The Chinese watches I bought all came with cheap straps of a doubt-able material they call "pleather" or "man-made leather". Junk. I got in the habit of going to the local jewelry store and having them put new straps on my watches as soon as I got them.  I've said all I mean to say about those experiences.

The other day I ordered a watch tool kit and now I'll be able to change the straps on my watches by myself. I have a watch that needs a new quartz movement, and I'll order one and install it myself. I have another watch that came with a cheap clasp and the bracelet is too large. With my new tool kit, I'll be able to replace the clasp and remove the link myself. It'll be fun and satisfying.

Well shoot, I thought to myself... Why stop there?

All I need to do is buy a watch case, a dial, a movement, a strap, assemble it, and it will be mine. I'll have a Steele. Most people won't know I'm walking around knowing what time it is wearing a watch I built myself. I'm not doing it for recognition. I'm doing it just to see if I can.

I've given some thought to how I'm going to go about it. This is the planning stage of goal achievement. We know that what: I want to wear a watch I built myself. I'm giving myself a year to do it.

  1. Determine a plan of action.
  2. Learn how by tinkering with watches I already have.
  3. Learn how by reading tutorials online.
  4. Order the parts piecemeal as my budget allows. That will take some time, and that's okay. I have other watches to wear, and I want to make myself a nice watch.
  5. Assemble the watch parts and make sure the darn thing works before showing it off.
There are several decisions I'll have to make along the way, and it will be fun doing the research to do them. For example, do I want to buy expensive materials as I go, so when I get done I'll have a better watch than I could afford to buy already assembled? I'm leaning that way, but a wee bit o' caution is entering my mind. If I do that and I fail, I'll have a bunch of high-priced pieces parts that aren't good for anything. On the other hand, if I buy cheap parts and finish successfully, I'll have a unique, but cheap watch. Nah.
When I make clothes for my wife (which I do often), I use quality materials. Always have, even when I was just learning to sew. By the way, I know more about watches now than I knew about sewing when I started making clothes for her. I don't think I want to go to the trouble of building myself a cheap watch even when I'm learning.

On the other hand, I don't think I'll spend the hundred bucks or more that it would take to put a Swiss movement in my watch. I don't have a spare hundred bucks around to play with in this experiment. I can get a very good movement for under forty bucks, so I think that's the way I will go.

I found a couple of sites that sell watch parts. It's fun looking at their selections and playing (in my mind) designing the watch. I want a white face. I want the date. I want three hands: hour, minute, and second. That leads to a lot of choices. I'll have fun poking around deciding what I want.

It's kind of lay-away the hard way. I'll buy the case first. Stainless steel, probably. Then I'll buy the dial. Then I'll buy the crystal. Then the movement, then the strap. Lots of choices. I'll build the thing in my head a hundred times before I get it assembled.

Some guys build their own cars, or refurbish an antique. This is probably a lot like that. It's a disease I wouldn't wish on anyone, but one I'm glad I have.

...I'll post pictures when I'm done. Don't hold your breath. This is going to take a while.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

I Have Had Enough of Minor Watch Repair at Jewelry Stores

The photo on the left looks like it could be a tool kit for the dental hygienist from Hell, but it's not. It's a watch repair tool kit. I ordered it today from eBay for the whopping sum of $18.99, including shipping. 
   I have had enough. Enough that  I shall underscore it in italics: I have had enough!
   Don't get me wrong--I'm not angry. I was angered a few times along this particular path, but I'm past it now. Now I'm doing something about it.
   Good things have happened when I have entered the Land of I Have Had Enough in the past. I learned to make bread by hand when I walked into the land of Had Enough with my bread machine. I learned to do my own clothing alterations after a stint in the Land of Had Enough. Both of those journeys were successful. I make my own bread, and if I need to take in the waist of a pair of pants, I can do that. In fact, I can make the pants  from a hunk of cloth if I'm in the mood to do so. I built this computer after a jaunt in the land of Had Enough when me old one died a piece at a time.

So now, in this current reality, I can munch on a piece of homemade bread while I wear a pair of pants that fit like they were made for me, talking to you through this computer I built. I like this world.

   In my wildest dreams and or nightmares, I never thought I would see the day come when I would decide to do my own watch repairs. 

   Sane people will wonder why I'm going to attempt my own watch repairs. It's a reasonable question. Most of the things I want to have done to my small collection of watches cost under $10 when done by qualified personnel at a jewelry store. When I need a battery put in a watch, the lady down the street will do it for $5.00, including the battery. When I want a new strap put on a watch, the store that sells it to me can put it on for me. Fine and dandy...but! 
   But the lady at the jewelry store down the street always puts on the wrong size. I think she struggles with getting the pin in if the fit is too tight. There's another jewelry store in the next town, but I'm no longer speaking to them. There is a snobbishness there that  I find intolerable. I would complain to the owner, but that's where the snobbishness originates. Frankly, I would rather have a close enough job done by a friendly person who tries hard than a perfect job done by a person looking down their nose. (Unless it's a tall person looking down their nose. Then it's okay because I'm not prejudiced against tall people. They're people, too!)

   Today I went to Walmart because I was looking for a leather strap to go on one of the  Seiko military watches I own. I found the right size and handed it to the clerk with my watch. She rang it up and handed it back to me. I said, "Please put it on the watch for me."
   She said, "I can't do that."
   "Why not?"
   "It's a Seiko. We don't sell Seikos."
   I thought she was confused. I pointed to the strap. I said, "It'll go on there just fine. It has pins, like the strap."
   "We don't sell Seiko," she said. She said it as if it made all the sense in the world.
   "I don't need you to sell me a Seiko." I smiled. "I already have one. I just want that strap on it."
   "It's policy," she said--again as if that made all the sense in the world.
   "It's a stupid policy." She looked shocked. I said quickly, "I'm not blaming you. I'm blaming Walmart." I handed the strap back to her and thanked her for her time.
   Now that I think about it, it's probably not that stupid on the part of Walmart. If she damaged the watch putting a new strap on it, Walmart would have to buy me a new watch instead of just grabbing another one off the shelf.

   That was it. That was, as far as watches are concerned, my gateway to the Land of Had Enough. I'm not mad at Walmart. I'm not mad at the jewelry store down the street. I am coldly angry with the jewelry store run by the snob, but I'm not going to use this as a pulpit from which to lambaste them (but the temptation is there.)

   I came home, logged on to eBay with my homemade computer, ate a piece of homemade bread, and in my well-fitted pants, I ordered a watch repair kit. When it arrives, I'll order some parts I need to: put new straps on my Seiko watches, order a new movement for my L.L Bean field watch (they no longer make that watch, or it would be under the L.L. Bean warranty), fix the bracelet on my BSA watch, and put a new battery in my Timex watch.

   I have never done any of the above things, but I'm not worried about that. Like learning how to sew, make bread, and repair or build a computer, I'm sure it will take some time and trial/error on my part. That's okay. In fact, I enjoy the process.

If something happens and I don't enjoy the process...well... I refer you to the photo. See the free hammer? I think I know what I'll do with it.

Friday, February 1, 2013

I'm Gonn Fix That Dryer, One Way Or The Other!

It's you and me, clothes dryer. At the conclusion of this exercise, either you're going to work, or you're out. Unless, of course, I blow myself to kingdom come in the process. If that's the case, I'm taking you out with me. Got it? Good.

   Oh. Hi! Ya heard that, huh?
    I am by no means a handyman. We'll call that a strike before I start when it comes to my chances of successfully fixing the dryer. What I am is two things: 1) damn stubborn when I want to be, and 2) durable.
   The results when I try to fix something are pretty good. I have only a dim idea of what I'm doing, but I keep hacking away at a solution until I find one that works.
   Sometimes the results are pretty funny. A couple of years ago I put a new light fixture in my den. I have hard-earned respect for electricity, so I powered down the entire second floor of the house when I did the job. I wired the fixture, went to the basement, turned on the power upstairs, then went back up to check my work.
   The light fixture was off. That meant I did something wrong. So...stubbornly, I got back on the swivel chair... That's right. I was standing on a swivel chair with a pair of pliers, reaching above my head to disconnect a light. By the time I realized the power was on--because I commented on something said on the TV in the room--it was too late. I did forty-three pirouettes and lay on the floor in a puddle of brain goo, saying, "Bzzzzt! TV ON, POWER ON! Moron! huvvuvuvuvvvvvv."
    The problem with the dryer has been going on for a few days now. It runs for a few minutes, then stops. It's like something physical is blocking something else physical.
    I went online and looked at a variety of trouble-shooting sites. The motor isn't burned out in the dryer. I'm pretty sure of that. I think the culprit is lint.
   I washed the lint trap and put it back in. That didn't fix the problem. Then (feel free to laugh soon), I pulled the panel under the door off. There's another lint trap there. It was full. FULL! So I took it up to the bathtub and scraped and scrubbed it.
   If you ever do that, be smarter than I was. Clean the tub before your wife goes to take a shower! She thought I had washed the fur off both of our cats and left it for her to find. After she finished screaming, she went looking for the animals. When she found them, she knew she had me to blame, but wasn't sure she really wanted to know what it was I washed that covered the bath tub with off-white fuzz. No. I did NOT tell her what it was.
   Reassembling the dryer wasn't easy. It would have been easy, but my wife knows me well. She hides her tools for fear I might try to use do things like foul the bath tub with gray fuzz. She's not wrong, in case you haven't figured that out.
   I put the cover back on with a screw driver and a socket (couldn't find the socket wrench, but I found the sockets). I might have cussed a bit.
   That didn't solve the problem.
    I removed the lint thing again and looked behind it. That was when I saw the cone of flame that is the provider of the gas heat that dries the clothes. It glowed blue and hot when I started the dryer with that panel off. I should probably apologize to my neighbors for the girlish screams they endured until the flames went out. I'm pretty glad dryer manufacturers build safeties into those things.
    I put the panel back on. Took me a while with the screwdriver and the socket. I blame that on the fact that I was trying to do that without sticking my face near the cone of fire that lives in the dryer.
  The problem was, and remains, unsolved. I think there's more lint. I think I have to remove the exhaust hose (it's one of those collapsible metal tubes) from the dryer and the outside vent and run a cat through it to clear it of lint. With the amount of lint I washed down the bath tub drain (give yourself twenty points if you think that will be my next repair job), I think it's highly probable my dryer vent is clogged.
   The last time I checked that hose, I found a dead bat. No kidding! He came in from outside in a life-changing quest for warmth, and ended up getting his fabric softened...

So tomorrow, after my wife goes to school, I'm going to remove that exhaust hose. I'll put a bit of catnip in one end and a cat at the other, then go upstairs and pour myself a cup of coffee. If, when I go back to the basement, I see what looks like at least two cats, I'll call the operation a success and put the exhaust hose back on.

...Then I'll ask my wife to finish the laundry.