Saturday, August 9, 2008

Wynn on his vintage TY80

The basics of Internal combustion are simple, if an engine has fuel and a spark, it should run, so when Wynn's 1975 TY 80 refused to start, The first thing I did was check for gas in the tank. There was plenty of fuel so I ruled that out, leaving the electrical system the likely culprit. I removed the plug from the cylinder, stuck it back into the cap and grounded it on the cylinder head. When I jab at the kickstarter, a bright, blue-white spark should snap between the electrodes of the plug. I kicked it over but no spark. Was the problem as simple as a bad plug which could be easily and cheaply, be replaced or was it something more complex?

I remembered a trick my father had taught me. While repairing a lawnmower he called me over and asked me to hold the sparkplug wire. Not knowing about such things at the time, I obliged. Dad yanked on the starter cord and I recoiled as an electrical jolt ran from the wire, into my fingers and up my arm. Dad thought it was pretty funny and after a while, so did I. Some time later, while working on a rototiller my father called me over, again, to hold the sparkplug wire. I'm not sure if he had forgotten about pulling that trick on me before or if he didn't remember which of his three sons had fallen for it before, but I walked over and took hold of the wire. We were both smiling as he pulled the starter cord.

Back to the present and troubleshooting Wynn's bike. I removed the plug and remembering Dad, stuck my little finger in the cap and jabbed at the kick lever again. This time there was no jolt, not even a tickle.This confirmed there was indeed a problem in the electrical system. It could be the coil, the points, the condenser, a short or a broken wire.

As a teenager, I had learned to do many motorcycle repairs out of necessity. The bike shop was far away and I could barely afford the parts let alone the labor. If I wanted to ride, I had to fix it myself. I'd order parts from the shop by telephone (rotary) and had them delivered C.O.D. via U.P.S. I could install chains, sprockets, tires, cables, pistons and rings. If it was just a matter of removing the worn or broken part and bolting on a new part, I could handle it. My Achilles heel was, and continues to be the electrical system. If a new sparkplug doesn't fix it, I'm stuck. Time to find a bike shop.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Megan & Melissa, Pinhole photograph

During his long summer vacation, we enroll our son Wynn, in several, week long camps. They're usually nature study or soccer camps. We’re careful not to over do it, leaving at least a week between camps for unstructured leisure time at home. We urge him to do some math or reading or to practice playing the piano or his new electric guitar. He usually complies but after a while we find him on the couch watching Sponge Bob or the home and garden channel.

Remembering that I had an empty 5 gallon ice cream drum in the basement, I asked him if he wanted to do some pinhole photography. His response was an enthusiastic, “Yes.” I had taught pinhole photography at his school as part of the aftercare program and he was involved but he had to share me with several other kids, now it would just be him and me.

We cut a hole in the container and spray painted the inside flat black. We cut a small square from an aluminum cooking pan then bored a tiny hole in it using a pin like a tailor or seamstress would use. I sanded the opening with some emery paper to remove any burrs. We taped the aluminum square behind the hole inside the container. Next we attached a piece of black gaffer tape on the outside over the opening to act as a shutter. Lastly, we taped an 8.5 x 11 sheet of photo paper inside the cylindrical container opposite the pinhole. I sent Wynn off to make an exposure while I cleared out the long neglected darkroom and mixed fresh chemicals.

When Wynn enter the darkroom, he removed the paper from the container and placed it in the developing tray. To our mutual surprise, his first paper negative was perfect. It had good exposure and was very sharp. It also had a bit of distortion due to the curved film plane. All in all, it was a very nice pinhole image. Wynn told me that making pinhole photographs was a lot more fun than watching television. He wanted to try it again. I had plenty of paper left over from the pre digital days, so I told told him to use as much as he wanted. After helping him with his first exposure, he was able to go out and shoot on his own and I was able to get back to work in my office.

Wynn spent the entire afternoon outside, taking photographs. He even walked with me to the barbershop, so he could make an image in the park on our way home. When the shop owner asked, “What’s in the can?” Wynn was silent, and then another patron said, “I bet it’s a snake!” Wynn then explained that he was making photographs with it. From the look on their faces it would probably have been better to let them think there was a snake inside and just leave it at that.

Later in the afternoon one of Wynn’s friend’s Meagan and her friend Melissa were curious as to what Wynn was doing. He explained he was making pinhole photographs and asked if he could take their picture. They posed for the 90 second exposure then followed him into the darkroom to watch, as he processed the paper negative. After washing and drying the negative he made a contact print for each of them.

I use a paper cutter to crop my negatives but this edge treatment was Wynn's idea.