I just came back
from Harbor Freight Tools after picking up a necessary item — yet
another aluminum-clad tool case — and also made a stop at Dick’s
Sporting Goods to grab one more slab of closed-cell foam plastic
simile has raised its ugly head: I’m seemingly fated to deal
forever with various types of plumbing fixtures.
Whatever I do, I
have to move a product from Point A to Point B without it leaking all
over the place.
This all began with
radio and electronics, coaxial cable and its various fittings. The
SO-239 connector was a familiar gadget by middle school; and as time
went on, the myriad gadgets that bear said connectors worked their
way into my world.
From there we moved
on to a higher class, a more professional kind of plumbing
connector (read: “more expensive, and harder to work with”),
meaning Type N and the BNC series military connectors.
When I became a
broadcaster I heard a simple bit of wisdom: “A professional
consultant is a guy who has enough coax adaptors to hook all of his
When you come down
to it, broadcast technicians are nothing more than plumbers who
endlessly hook together black boxes, with what amounts to plumbing
fittings and black coaxial pipes with numbers that usually begin with
RG, in an infinite number of permutations as the situation demands.
My obsession reached
its peak with my introduction to the Bird RF Wattmeter. My
masterpiece of plumbing came to a head when I assembled the ultimate
Bird field kit. Two wattmeters, a lotta power and frequency
range plug-ins, a small dummy load and a bunch of plumbing
fittings that adapt the wattmeter sampling lines to various kinds
of other coaxial pipes …
At one point, I
became fascinated as a hobbyist with microwave equipment. The
plumbing simile went a step further. Welcome to the “Wonderful
World of Waveguide,” hollow pipes that carry energy from place to
microwave textbook mentions the concept of radio waves of such short
wavelength that they can be squirted through pipes like water; and
it’s common to refer to waveguide systems as “plumbing.” So
again, it was time to get out the monkey wrench and have at it.
Having moved on to
photography, then to astronomy, guess what? The plumbing fittings
have tagged along too! Only this time, instead of pumping little tiny
radio waves through pipes, we’re doing it with the photons that
make up light.
Celestron telescope has an unusual thread on its back to mate with
the outside world, and it has become necessary to obtain various
adaptors that mate the threaded ring to other kinds of
plumbing. The adaptor fittings are beginning to pile up here, and
another accessory case has become a necessity.
threaded ring has to be mated to standard astronomy eyepiece fittings
(.965-inch, 1.25-inch and 2-inch standards; I’m “not even gonna
go there” with European/Asian metric eyepiece gadgets unless I
really have to).
I’ve already had
to yell “uncle” with 1.25-inch eyepieces, the most popular
American astronomical optical standard.
On both of the above
cases, the fitted inserts are fashioned from closed-cell polyurethane
foam plastic and cut to size with a bandsaw. Oddly shaped openings
are cut with a coping saw. Round eyepiece holes are drilled with a
Forstner drill bit of appropriate diameter.
The basic material
is shipping foam rescued from the dumpster at work (for thin stuff of
maybe 1 inch thickness) or, more typically, foam archery targets
approximately 3 inches thick. It cuts cleanly with a Forstner bit;
the foam is stiff and offers adequate resistance to be cut safely
when you apply the drill press.
Now, I’m beginning
to accumulate 2-inch eyepieces, in addition to lens adaptors that go
from a photographic T-ring to C-ring (photo lens to either a movie
camera or a video camera), T-ring to camera body (in my case, Minolta
MD mount or Minolta Alpha mount), and connecting them all to 2- or
1.25-inch astronomical eyepieces and their fittings.
It’s all just more
plumbing fixtures. These expensive little buggers need someplace to
live ... so yet another cheap, Chinese-made aluminum-sheathed case
enters my world.
It’s beginning to
look like the whole world is being held together by plumbing
of one kind or another.
infamous politician’s explanation of the Internet as being just a
bunch of pipes? Yea verily ... the plumbers shall indeed inherit the
Tom Adams, “Mr.
T,” is staff engineer for Wisconsin Public Broadcasting. Comment on
this or any story; write to email@example.com.