Smith Corona Typewriter

I have often eyed typewriters at garage sales and thought it would be fun to try one out. Often the thing that held me back was not knowing if it would work and the price. I recently stumbled on a Smith Corona XE 5200 typewriter being sold for $2. After seeing that it worked, I decided to take the plunge.

This was no ordinary manual typewriter. It came out when computers were starting to take hold of the word processing world. It has a 5000 word memory bank and a built in dictionary. I had fun running it through the demo and this is what it typed out.

While I appreciate the versatility of a typewriter (for example I addressed a few envelopes with it), I don’t think that it will be replacing my computer. However, it has been really fun learning how to use it and there are still many more functions listed in the manual that I could still make use of.

Changing Lawnmower Bearings

I was mowing the other day and a scraping sound started being emitted from the mower deck. Being the tractor loving person that I am, I was soon on my hands and knees investigating these unexpected sounds. I quickly discovered that the blades were scraping the deck because they were wobbling. I figured that a bearing came out so I took the deck off. It took quite a bit of hammering to get the bearing housing off the deck.

That was just the beginning of the hammering. Somehow, I haven’t really hammered my mechanical projects that much which shows my limited experience. The housing required a lot of hammering to get apart!

The new bearings were hard to get back on but they made a big difference. Not only did the blades not hit the deck anymore but the grinding, hurricane sound was gone! Although this job takes a bit of work it really makes a big difference.

200 Push-up Challenge

About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to be able to do more unbroken push-ups. I tried two workout plans to advance my max.

First, I did 20 every hour for about 8 hours of the day. I did that for a few weeks and found that it was too distracting from my work and I made little gains.

I then tried doing my max, unbroken push-ups once in the morning, and again in the evening. Using this method, I was able to advance my max by 20 whole push-ups over the period of about a month.

I was doing this max push-up routine twice a day, and found myself stuck at about 50 push-ups. I wanted to make more gains without taking too much more time out of my day. That is when I stumbled onto this 200 push-up challenge. I knew I was capable of doing 200 push-ups, as I had previously done 200 push-ups in an evening, but that was nothing in comparison.

Here is how the challenge works. You do your max, unbroken push-ups, and then pump out what ever is left to complete the 200 push-ups. Then you do this for 30 days strait, without rest days. You record the time taken to complete them, and the max that you did in the beginning.

A little over a month ago, I started the challenge. I did my max unbroken push-ups to start which was only 45. About 100 in, I was down to reps of 1 before taking a break, and it was taking far too long for my liking. I took a couple hours break and came back to it. After two days, I stopped breaking my 200 up, and did them all in one go (making the times for the first two days not fully honest compared to the others). Here is a graph of my results:

As you can see, in the beginning my max takes a sharp drop as my time goes up. The first week was brutal and all I had was sore muscles with little apparent gains. Slowly but surely, my times dropped, and when I felt comfortable, I tried to crank out 5 more at the start (that way I wasn’t wasting a bunch of time trying to get just 1 more).

After doing this for 20 days, I was bored of doing so much of the same motion. I mixed it up by doing push-up variations every other day. Out of my 200, I did 20 inclined push-ups, 20 declined push-ups, and 20 diamond push-ups.

At the end of the challenge, I was at 55 for my max. This was good, but I knew that after a couple rest days, I could do better. Three days later, I got to it to see what new personal record I could set. I got to fifty quite quickly and then not to long later, I was at 70. It was a struggle on those last few, and although I might have been able to do a few more, I was happy with that even 70.

Many people have discussed the importance of rest days to make gains, and although I am happy with the gains I made during this challenge, I am quite interested in what the results would be with rest days.

Fixing A String Trimmer

I got my first string trimmer a couple of years ago, but immediately ran into trouble the next summer because I didn’t know how to winterize my gas powered tools. In fact, I just left it outside under the deck, and after a cold winter, as anyone who knows anything about engines would know, it didn’t start. I got some help from a friend, and he thought it was a problem with bad gas, which is a common problem with leaving gas in extreme weather.

The first thing we tested was the spark plug. I actually broke it when pulling it out, so there was no question about whether or not it needed replacing. I bought a new one, and still it wasn’t working. At this point we should have tested again for spark, but we didn’t think that gas was getting in there. This is where I learned a little trick to get small engines started. We took an eyedropper full of gas and squirted it into the cylinder beneath the spark-plug, carefully re-threaded the spark-plug (so as to not break it), and gave it a few pulls. Now, although this didn’t work in this case due to other problems that I still need to explain, this trick has come in handy in other circumstances.

So, what was the problem? Well, I set about testing for a spark by touching the metal of the spark-plug to metal on the engine (while the spark plug was still attached to the cable coming from the ignition coil), and pulling the starting cable. In my case there was no spark, but you should see a blue spark jumping across the two contacts of the spark-plug. Of course, yours could be dirty, but mine was brand new. Here is a YouTube video explaining how you can do this. Do take caution, because the spark produced could lead to death, so don’t be touching the metal, and keep it away from gas while testing it!


I also set about testing the kill switch just in case it was constantly on. I tested it by simply unplugging it and then trying to start the string trimmer again. This also didn’t produce the intended results. In my mind, there could only be one more reason there was no spark and that was the ignition coil. I looked it up online how to test it with a multi meter, and sure enough it was broken. Ignition coils can be expensive, but I found a replacement for a reasonable price. After some clean up, and installing the new ignition coil, it now runs great.

I guess I learned my lesson about winterizing my gas tools, but that shouldn’t break the ignition coil right? Well, there are two things that greatly contribute to ignition coil breakdown. One is excessive shaking, but my string trimmer runs really nice. The other thing is too much heat. Now, that summer, before it broke, I ran it like a horse, always at full power. (It was my first time using one.) I actually had black smoke come out of the muffler on several occasions (I think that the black was from burning oil). Anyways, I think that the ignition coil was broken before I stored it away for the winter. My improper storage made it harder to identify the problem, but I took some precautions to reduce the chance of it failing again. First, I turned down the idle speed (as it was pretty high). Second, I put some plastic washers between the ignition coil and the engine housing to reduce the amount of heat that it can absorb at once. And finally, I also oiled the crankshaft with some 2-cycle oil to reduce the head produced. Of course, the easiest way to prevent an overheat is to just run it slower, which I have been doing, but when I need it, it still has great power. Anyways, learn from my mistakes, and if you have a similar problem, maybe this will help you identify it.

Broken Dremel

Just the other day I was working on a project, and decided to fire up the old dremel. It turned out that my plans were about to change, as I accidentally broke it. Yes! I broke a tool. It turned on just fine but the switch got stuck in between the on and off setting.

It started revving up and down as I tried to get it all the way on or back off, but the button wouldn’t budge! Smoke started to pour out the ventilation grate, and I speedily unplugged it from the wall. So, what next, it’s broken right?

Well, after waiting couple hours for any potentially dangerous capacitors to discharge, I set out on a repair mission. When I opened it up, the culprit was immediately identifiable.

Burnt Button

Here is the button that I removed from the dremel. Notice anything wrong? The bottom was all burnt, and it smelled horrible too. In case you’re wondering, yes, it’s still stuck.

Lucky for me, my dad has a stash of old electronics in the closet, and as it turned out there was a near identical button in there. Here is what it looks like after some de-soldering and cleaning.

New Button

Yes, I know it is a DPST (double pole) switch, but when I say identical, I really meant it has the same voltage, amperage ratings, and it fits. As you can see in the picture, I just covered up one sides terminals with heat shrink to ensure insulation.

Here is what the insides of the dremel looked like when disassembled.

Inside the Dremel

The button is just connected with those two female electrical sleeves, and the wheel down there is the potentiometer for speed settings.

Nothing else looked burnt, so I wired it all up and gave it a go (ready to unplug it from the wall at any indication of smoke).

Fixed Dremel

It worked just like before, and after a minute of running at full speed, there are no apparent problems. I’m sure glad to have this tool back working again!