Your article on compact discs [PS, Nov. ’83] made the point that CDs offer a greater dynamic range than many existing audio systems can reproduce. For listeners who like to crank up the volume, their hi-fi equipment could introduce distortion or overload the speakers.
Learning just how the human body moves has become increasingly important to a variety of specialists—from designers of “humanoid” robots to orthopedic surgeons. The photo above shows one of the most advanced systems for the analysis of human biomechanics—the Vicon.
The open ranges of Wyoming flew by in a near-silent green flash. Vaguely aware that the Audi 5000S turbo was quickly gobbling great stretches of empty road, I glanced down at the 160-mph speedometer. Surprised, I found the needle hovering between 100 and 110 mph and quickly applied a well-measured squeeze on the brake pedal.
Ford and General Motors may be taking a second look at their 1986 mini-van drive-line designs. Both companies have been committed to rear-drive setups since the first stages of the design process. GM is especially worried that its GMC and Chevy models will be too much like the current full-size C-10 and not as appealing as Chrysler’s front-drive Dodge Caravan.
Performance improvements and sporty new styling highlight the changes in this season’s new snowmobiles. This trend closely parallels what’s happening in the automotive marketplace. Snowmobile buyers are looking for more excitement rather than basic, utilitarian transportation.
AMC took a full year longer than GM or Ford to develop its version of a compact utility vehicle. But a smooth ride combined with a rugged feel and look convinced POPULAR SCIENCE’S Detroit-based automotive editor that the newest 4WD trailblazer was worth the wait.
It was 3 a.m. when I edged onto the sand. The overnight storm was turning the beach into a disaster area. I wanted a closer look at my 17-foot aluminum boat, The Force. Because it has a history of faring poorly in heavy surf, I was afraid that the boat and its outboard engine might take a dunking.
Owning a four-wheel-drive utility vehicle used to mean dealing with poor fuel economy, a noisy interior, and an uncomfortably stiff ride. Today, the compact Jeep Cherokee, Chevy S-10 Blazer, and Ford Bronco not only offer outstanding ability when the pavement ends: They also possess surprisingly sedan-like manners when they roll back onto the blacktop.
Ford Bronco II
PS ratings— test report in a nutshell
Performance comparison with selected 1980 models
Chevrolet S-10 Blazer
AMC Jeep Cherokee Pioneer
PS serviceability ratings
Test results, dimensions, and specs
It’s a classic match-up: American Motors, a four-wheel-drive specialist and the smallest of the American utility-truck builders, takes on giants Chevrolet and Ford with its Jeep Cherokee Pioneer. The Cherokee is brand-new for 1984; the Chevrolet S-10 Blazer and Ford Bronco II are almost a year old.
I have on my land a 45-foot mine tunnel into rock. If I used it as a passive-solar heat sink, what exactly would happen to the heat? If the tunnel were sealed and temperatures increased considerably during the summer (say, to 80 degrees from its ambient), where would the heat go?
Last year, some 23,000 persons were treated for injuries caused by chain-saw kickback. I’m convinced that many of those injuries could have been prevented with a new low-kick chain, the Tri-Raker, developed by Townsend Saw Chain Co. ["What’s New in Tools,” PS, Aug. ’82].
Flash floods—torrents that rip through mountain canyons and hollows after sudden, heavy rainfalls—are the leading weather-related cause of death in the United States. Now, the National Weather Service is operating two pilot programs that link automated instruments at remote sites to sophisticated central computers. Purpose: to issue lifesaving early warnings of gathering floods. Another program is under way to improve pre-rain forecasts.
Prescription for disaster
Vilous T. Mullins knew there was going to be trouble. The coordinator of the Emergency Operations Center of Dickenson County, Va., sat worriedly at the terminal of his minicomputer and studied updated figures from the automated rain and river gauges located around the county.
The promise: super-efficient power-plant generators wound from materials that lose all electrical resistance at temperatures approaching absolute zero. Now General Electric is getting closer to the fulfillment of its goal with a successful demonstration of its large research device.
The property of superconductivity—by which certain materials lose all electrical resistance at temperatures near absolute zero —holds great promise for practical engineering applications, but it also presents great challenges for engineers trying to harness it [“Superconductors,” PS, May '81].
The Canon X-07 hand-held computer and its assortment of peripherals buck the trend among personal computers away from user programming.
My wife rises earlier than I do, especially on her birth-day. To avoid a repeat of last year, when I snoozed while she fumed, I spent an hour or so with a new hand-held computer from Canon the day before. Then I turned it off and left it at bedside.
It is endlessly fascinating to learn how a physical effect that is not immediately obvious to the senses can be understood and then harnessed to do useful work. That is the reason for the article about the strange-looking vessel on this month’s cover.
“Cinder blocks” of lower-grade silicon... ribbon cells pulled from glowing crucibles ... ultra-thin films on sheets of steel: The makers of solar cells are taking the techniques that they’ve developed in the laboratory and are utilizing them on production lines. The result is lower-cost cells for thousands of homes plus huge multi-megawatt electrical-utility projects. And the race is on for still-cheaper cells, costing only $1 per watt of power they produce, to compete with conventional energy sources for generating electricity.
New solar paths
JEANNE A. McDERMOTT
I watch as a research engineer squats in front of a long, fat oven chamber, balancing his notebook in one hand and peering through a window that radiates a deep violet light. Inside, in a high vacuum, a radio-frequency field creates temperatures of 300 to 400 degrees C. A precisely controlled mixture of silicon, hydrogen, and boron gases is introduced.
Gleaming under the high desert sun, like diamonds in the dirt, huge panels soaked up solar rays. Every few minutes, the grinding sound of an electric motor rasped through the clear air, and one panel or another swivel-tilted a few degrees to keep the sunlight directly on the panel’s face.
Slicing silicon microcircuits from wafers and then wiring them back together enable one company to link the equivalent of 100 computer chips on a single wafer. Such wafers promise an ultra-fast, very-compact mainframe computer. Another advantage: Redundant circuits allow the wafers to “fix themselves.”
Stretching the limits
Computer wizard Gene Amdahl held one of the 40 circuits of his new machine open in two hands. From a few feet away, it looked like a futuristic solar cell. It wasn’t. “Look closely,” Amdahl said, handing me the piece containing a 2½-inch square of silicon.
Electronic anti-skid brake systems have been available on such upper-crust European cars as the BMW and Mercedes—for an extra $1,400. Now there’s a simple all-mechanical system designed for small, front-wheel-drive cars. And the additional cost is only $270.
A skid starts when you hit the brakes hard on a slick surface. The wheels lock because the tires lose the traction with the road that keeps them rolling. To stop the skid, smart drivers dab the brake pedal gingerly and repeatedly to slow the wheels’ rotation in progressive steps, until the tires regain enough adhesion to slow the braking car.
Spin sail harnesses mysterious Magnus effect for ship propulsion
The Magnus effect was discovered in 1852, and a ship using it was sailed across the Atlantic in 1926. Its inventor predicted it would launch a new age of wind-powered ships. But cheap oil sank that idea. Now, with oil prices up, the Magnus effect ship is back. Its design has been worked out for ships of all classes, and instrumented tests have proved the device’s effectiveness. The day of the rotor-assisted windship may at last be at hand.
Flettner rotor revived
Windmill to the rescue
C. P. GILMORE
The sky was blue and the wind fresh one morning recently as I stepped aboard the yacht Tracker. The 42-foot craft with a strange, giant cylinder mounted on the forward deck was hanging at anchor in Edgartown Harbor in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.
Fire is the greatest danger to lives and equipment aboard a petroleum platform at sea. The Iolair, a multipurpose, semi-submersible Emergency Support Vessel, was designed to fight such fires in treacherous North Sea conditions, with waves up to 50 feet high.
V. ELAINE SMAY
One hundred forty-one people were on board British Petroleum’s oil-production platform, Forties Delta, last September when a fire broke out. A strange-looking vessel raced across the North Sea toward it, and when it got about 600 feet from the platform, the vessel’s powerful water-cannon-like fire monitors began spraying enormous streams of water at the blaze.
In McFarland, Wis., Don Peterson is building homes of very high energy efficiency with expanded-polystyrene foam—the same kind used in throwaway coffee cups. In his ingenious construction system, he also uses a special concrete that acts as both frame and covering. The concrete supplies structural strength, durability, and fire resistance comparable to that of a conventional home. The result is a superinsulated house that costs about the same as a house of double-stud construction but is faster and easier to build.
Anatomy of a foam house
Trial by fire
V. ELAINE SMAY
The large shell of what was rapidly becoming a house stood strangely white at the top of a gentle knoll as we drove up a rutted lane flanked by deep-green cornfields. When we got to the construction site, it was apparent that the walls of the house were made of large white blocks, each labeled with a letter and number.
Batricar’s upholstered seat and armrests make disabled persons comfortable as they drive the electric vehicle. Its range is 30 miles, and top speed is four mph, says Batricar Ltd. (Griffin Mill, Thrupp, Stroud, Gloucester GL5 2AZ, England). Options: hood and wheeled carryall.
The technology in Canon’s three-color desk-top copier [PS, Aug. '83]—using snapin cartridges (inset) for black, blue, or brown reproductions—is available in a 27-copy-per-minute office machine. An optional sorter collates up to 30 sheets per copy set into 10 bins. $3,995.
The air-cooled, flat-six rear engine in the Porsche 911 Carrera has been enlarged to 3.2 liters (195 cu. in.), delivering 231 hp. Top speed is 152 mph; zero to 60 mph takes just six seconds. Fuel consumption at 55 mph is said to be 34 mpg. This Targa model has a detachable hard roof.
Zipper three-wheel vehicles offer the economy of a motorbike plus protection from the weather, says Zoe Motors (1901 Ave. of the Stars, Los Angeles, Calif. 90067). The made-in-Japan two-seater has a Honda 50-cc (3.1-cu.-in.) engine and an automatic transmission. Price: $3,000.
A new-generation regional airliner, the Saab-Fairchild 340, has its fuel economy optimized for short flights of 150 miles. The small turbo-prop carries up to 34 passengers. Nonstop range is more than 1,000 miles. The plane uses slow-rotating composite propellers to cut noise.
Twin tires on all wheels aid road handling, comfort, snow traction, steering, and mileage, claims a Swiss firm. And the spare can be eliminated because you can drive with one flat tire per wheel. JJD (68 Rothschild, 1202 Geneva 4, Switzerland) puts Good-year tires on its duo-wheels.
Microprocessors in this British mine train conserve its twin 114-V batteries and control electric braking through the axle motors. The train is designed to negotiate steep slopes and sharp bends in tunnels. Acceleration to 25 mph is computer-controlled for best running efficiency.
Conventional controls, an enclosed cockpit, and crash protection are features on the Coyote, a $6,500 ready-to-fly ultralight. The 229-lb. craft has a 27-hp engine and 75-mph top speed. Range: 180 miles. Ceiling: 12,000 ft. Rans, 1104 E. Highway 40 Bypass, Hays, Kan. 67601.
Arcspray can put a protective metal coating on parts, or form an electromagnetic screen around sensitive electronic equipment. Made by Metallisation Ltd. (Pear Tree Lane, Dudley, West Midlands DY2 0XH, England), it includes the power supply, air-flow system, and wire feeder.
Optical scanners on Scorpion, a nine-by-12-in. hobbyist robot, can recognize patterns and display them on a host computer’s CRT, says Rhino Robots, Inc. (Box 4010, Champaign, Ill. 61820). The $660 robot has its own computer and memory, four motors, a speaker, and “eyes.”
Tired of climbing? A new gasor electric-powered monorail system moves people or material to sites other-wise inaccessible. A system covering 180 ft. costs about $9,500 installed, says Von Roll Habegger of America (753 W. Main St., Watertown, N.Y. 13601). Starts at $2,500.
No coins needed—just insert your personal magnetized card, and Girovend dispenses food and drink. It deducts the purchase from the card’s account. Mess GmbH (Senefelder 2729, 3300 Braun-schweig, Germany) has placed the machines in airports and rail stations across Germany.
Floating oil rig
Towed by a 98,000-hp tug-boat flotilla, a 111,750-ton drill rig heads for the Phillips Petroleum fields in the North Sea. Storage tanks ballasted with water double as legs and touch down on a steel platform anchored on the seabed. The rig should produce 70,000 barrels a day.
Rounded body edges and a cab-roof spoiler cut drag on this British Ford concept truck. A body-panel sandwich of aluminum honeycomb and balsa wood lightens weight, as do carbon-fiber springs and drive shaft. It uses 20 percent less fuel than other models, says Ford.
Bell Helicopter Textron’s seven-place TwinRanger has safety ring guard around new “high-thrust” tail rotor. Four-blade composite over-head rotor is powered by two Allison turboshaft engines for smooth ride, speeds of up to 150 knots, and range of 420 miles. $750,000.
Made of PVC-coated fabric, the 2,000-gal. Fastank packs into a small crate. The flexible tank needs no foundation, and it’s erected in 10 minutes without tools, says Fast Engineering (Mucka-more, Antrim BT41 4QE, N. Ireland). Special pins lock the aluminum frame in place.
You can take your 35-mm SLR with winder down to 60-ft. depths with the Master EWA camera housing. The $79.95 list price includes quick-focus ring, straps, and built-in glove for control; the $89.50 model takes flash. Pioneer & Co., 216 Haddon Ave., Westmont, N.J. 08108.
Pioneer & Co.
No bag to carry: Extra lenses, accessories, and film are at your finger tips with the Leikon Action System by Frankel Enterprises (Box 1751, Davis, Calif. 95616). It consists of foam-lined Cordura cases—three for lenses, one for flash, one for accessories—plus belt. It’s $79.95.
Pioneer & Co.
As easy to handle as a 35? That’s the claim for the medium-format Fujica GW690 and GSW690 6×9-cm—2¼by-3¼—cameras. The 50-oz. range-finder cameras come with noninterchangeable lenses: a normal 90-mm for the GW (list: $730); a wide 65-mm for the GSW ($795).
Pioneer & Co.
“High fashion” is the word for Minolta’s disc cameras, which come in four different pastel colors ($150) or with tiny gold initials (“ac,” possibly for Andre Courreges, the French designer of the line; $200). The all-automatic cameras come with built-in flash and five-year batteries.
Pioneer & Co.
Now there’s a half-price companion to the top-of-the-line Leica R4: the R4S. At a list price of $897, 48 percent less than the R4’s list of $1,725, the R4S retains three of the five exposure modes of the R4: aperture-priority auto-mation with full-field metering, aperture priority with spot metering, and manual operation with spot metering. The programmed and shutter-priority modes of the R4 are lacking. The camera has silicon-cell metering with LED displays in the viewfinder, and a metering range from EV 1 to EV 19. It weighs 22.2 oz. Price does not include a lens. Distributor is E. Leitz, Inc. (24 Link Dr., Rockleigh, N.J. 07647).
Pioneer & Co.
Now your Kodak 4000 disc camera can go to sea, too, with a Cheri Sea Systems (Box 6854, Louisville, Ky. 40206) polycarbonate housing. The 5½-OZ. housing is claimed to resist pressures of 100 psi and depths of 200 ft. The housing’s price, at dive shops or by mail, is $48.
You can roll on paint inside or spray it on outside with the Krebs Spray-N-Roll Kit (No. 225). If you have a Krebs airless sprayer (model 25,35, or 45), you can add the roller attachment. The roller has 250 holes for fast, smooth application, says the maker. The kit is $180; roller, $40.
Craftsman radial-arm saw does new tricks with attachments from Sears. Belt Sander (right) fits on the saw arbor in place of the blade and lets you sand pieces up to 30 in. wide, of any length. A spring roller provides slack tension on the four-by-60-in. belt (included in $100 price); you move a sanding pad over the back of the belt to control stock removal. Pin-router attachment (far right; $40) turns a router and radial saw into a pin router. Router holder attaches to saw’s motor housing, and a guide pin goes in the table. With a pin router you can make straight or irregular cuts using a template, and do other woodworking jobs.
Stripping and finishing are easier with these nonwoven abrasive pads, claims 3M. Unlike steel wool, they won’t rust or splinter; residue can be rinsed away and pads reused. They come in three grades—for stripping wood, smoothing bare wood, and cleaning metal; $1 each.
When you make a long cut with a saw, router, or utility knife, you may need some guidance. The clamp-on 4-in-1 Professional Cutter’s Edge, from The Hirsh Co., has two aluminum sections that join to form a 102-in. guide. It also has a 51-in. level, T-square, and protractor. $40.
Tiny hooks on the back of this sandpaper grip the loops on the pad and disc. Result: instant adhesion without glue, says NicSand Inc. (Box 29480, Cleveland, Ohio 44129). You can change grits quickly and reuse the paper. Easy Grip comes in pad and disc kits and in refill packs.
Frame Clamp puts the grip on mitered corners of picture frames and cabinet doors—from five by seven to 26 by 30 in. As you turn the center wing nut, all four corners of the aluminum clamp tighten with equal pressure. Shopsmith, 750 Center Dr., Vandalia, Ohio 45377; $16.
You can dispense just the amount of silicone sealant you want, with no excess oozing from the tube. Success sealant from Bostik (Reading, Pa. 19605) has a plunger-and-cartridge applicator that is said to minimize mess and waste. Price: $3.29.
Port-A-Steam electric heater
The Port-A-Steam electric heater is safe to use, even around small children, because the cover never gets hot, claims Sonic (305 Island Rd., Mahwah, N.J. 07430). The 1,000-W sealed, steam-heated radiator warms an eight-by-10-ft. room. It shuts off when overturned. $99.
The cast-iron-and-stainless-steel Chimney Port ($59.95) makes creosote inspections easier. An optional airtight canvas cover with a sleeve for brush rods ($33) lets you clean the chimney from below. Cramco Mfg., Box 178, Manchester Center, Vt. 05255.
A unique coating that resists ultraviolet damage makes the Lexan double-wall sheet last far longer than untreated polycarbonate glazings, says GE. The impact-resistant, ribbed sheet has an R-value of 1.54. It can be used for storm windows, greenhouses, and skylights.
The 911 Locator, a conventional single-pole switch, operates your front light normally—until there’s trouble. Then push the switch down, and your front light flashes so emergency vehicles can find your house quickly. From Slater Electric, Inc., Glen Cove, N.Y. 11542; $15.95.
Clipped to a belt, the 8.75-in.-high Mini-Light illuminates your work with its four-W fluorescent tube. Its flashlight bulb gives concentrated light, and the flip-open lens magnifies it. From Country Classics, 39 Orchard Street, Manhasset, N.Y. 11030; $14.95.
Minolta’s portable video system includes a five-head stereo VHS recorder, 133-channel cable-ready tuner, and a choice of color cameras. Top-end camera at right has a built-in character generator and stopwatch for titling as you tape. Price of the system begins at $2,500.
On-the-go entertainment means an AM-FM clock radio plus a black-and-white TV—and you have a choice of screen sizes with the two newest portables from Magnavox. Above, the BD3902SL has a two-in. screen and is $250; the five-in. model at right is $160. Both have AC adapters.
Tap the buttons of a remote Touch-Tone phone, and this Teleport 300 modem converts the tones into data for a computer. Any phone can be used for remote data entry. (It’s also a conventional modem.) It’s made by Teltone, 10801 120 St. N.E., Kirkland, Wash. 98033. Price is $349.
Color Computer 2
Simple one-line commands create high-resolution graphics on the Radio Shack 16K Extended Color Computer 2. Its built-in BASIC has nine-digit accuracy. Programming can be saved on audio cassette. The $320 system is compatible with all other Color Computer software.
When an auto-reverse cassette deck plays the other side of a tape, there’s a trade-off: The head alignment (azimuth) is not exact. But the Nakamichi RX-202 turns the tape over to play the other side. Because the tape always moves in one direction, the azimuth is correct. $650.
Welded-steel E-Z Go grates provide traction when the going gets slippery, says Grate Traction (12805 White-wood Dr., Burnsville, Minn. 55337). The set of two slips under the driven tires and folds to a compact eight-by-six-by-one-in. size when not in use. Price: $11.95 per set.
Black & Decker’s Inflator 200 plugs into the cigarette lighter and produces up to 200 psi for inflating tires, air shocks, or beach balls. A built-in pressure gauge gives a continuous pressure read-out. Inflator’s $26 price includes sport-ball and recreational inflation attachments.
Designed for cars with power door locks, this touch pad replaces the lock cylinder. You punch a code to open the door and disarm the alarm. Installation takes only four hours, according to United Sound Systems (3055 Teagarden St., San Leandro, Calif. 94577). Price: $349.95.
nylon tow tape
Attach one end of the nylon tow tape to the stuck vehicle; pull the other end out of the box, and attach it to the rescue vehicle. The tape, strong enough to lift two tons, retracts into the box when the rescue is over, says Honex (3000 Sand Hill Rd., Menlo Park, Calif. 94025). It’s $19.95.
Forever ice scraper
This aluminum scraper’s 4½-in.-wide bronze blade will clear ice quickly by conforming to the windshield’s contour; yet it won’t scratch the glass, claims I. K. Products, Inc. (9311 Bryant Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55420). It’s 16½ in. long, so it easily reaches the corners. $9.95.
Chains-Away’s molded-plastic storage box keeps car trunks clean, dry, and organized. It’s specially grooved lid doubles as an installation ramp. Wink Corp. (20630 56th Ave. W., Lynnwood, Wash. 98036) says Chains Away can support 2,000 lbs. per wheel. Price: under $15.
Commute to work or tour the countryside on Cyclodynamics’ human-powered vehicle. It has been clocked at 90 mph (downhill), but it’s designed for safety and comfort.
Sitting back in the snug shell of the low, streamlined vehicle while driving through Boulder, Colo., I glanced at the side mirror and pedaled out into traffic. Pedaled? Yes, the machine I was driving was a $3,800 Cyclodyne, a souped-up tricycle.
Imagine the view, the exhilaration, the pure pleasure of drifting before the wind, slung in a harness beneath a bubble of color—your personal hot-air balloon. Cloudhopper is the world’s smallest balloon, says Early Winters (110 Prefontaine Pl. S., Seattle, Wash. 98104), the outfitter that distributes it.
A clever design allows you to create ample sleep, storage, and work space in what was formerly a cramped attic room. Separately assembled elements combine to create a seamless, built-in look that features a natural-pine desk, counter, platform bed, and bedside table.
A room of one's own is a prize for any teen-ager—even if the "room" is little more than a broad landing at the top of the attic stairs. But converting a pocket of attic space into the welcoming aerie shown at right required both creative design and careful selection of materials.
Eight panels of waferboard, standard power tools, and a free weekend are the essential ingredients for building this handsome workbench. It can be customized for the designer, with storage for art supplies. Eight boxes form the workbench’s basic structure.
CHARLES A. MILLER
If you or someone in your family constantly clutters the house with large matte boards and rolls of working drawings, this home design center can help eliminate the mess. It provides ample work space along with a place to store art supplies of all sizes conveniently.
Aerosol paint removers are fast and easy to use, and they reach tight areas of textured surfaces. Do they replace conventional strippers? No—in some cases you might want to use both on the same project. The principal concern in using aerosols is safety. Wear goggles, gloves, and a long-sleeve shirt.
Aerosols and safety
A. J. HAND
I hate stripping paint. The results may be rewarding, but the process of removing an old finish is nothing but drudgery. That's why I'm always on the lookout for a way to make the job easier. So when aerosol-spray paint strippers started showing up on the shelves of local paint and hardware stores, I knew they were something worth looking into.
Several new types of panels—each with its own characteristics—offer alternatives to plywood. There are, however, both advantages and problems. Laying out a project can be simpler, but your choice of tools, edge treatments, and corner joints is more complex.
LAYOUT IS EASIER
USE PROPER TOOLS
IMPROVE CORNER JOINTS
WIDE CHOICE OF EDGE TREATMENTS
Plywood’s no longer the only game in town when you want the simplicity and strength of building from manufactured panels instead of lumber. As POPULAR SCIENCE pointed out in last July’s issue, waferboard is coming on strong as a project material, surpassing particleboard in versatility (the latter can’t be used outdoors) as well as in appearance.
Modular storage units can be attractive, flexible, and functional. You can start with a few units, and add others as necessary. They can be easily restacked if you move or become tired of the old arrangement. And they’re easy to build with plywood and simple tools.
Building basic boxes
R. J. DeCRISTOFORO
Modular storage boxes offer extraordinary flexibility. Start with only the units you need now, and add others later. Set them against a wall, use them to fill a corner, or place them across a room as a short divider. You can make the units any size, but if you stay with the sizes suggested, you’ll make better use of standard materials.
Ideal for workshops with little space, the newest compact bench tools are lightweight, easy to store, and relatively inexpensive. But their performance ranges widely. The author found that many handle most of the jobs a full-size tool can do, while a few perform poorly. Yet some compact bench tools can do things the bigger tools are not able to tackle.
A. J. HAND
Back in June 1980, I wrote a piece on what was then a brand-new trend in stationary power tools: compact, self-contained, bench-top tools. That article was one of the most widely read power-tool stories ever published in POPULAR SCIENCE.
What’s the ideal bench-top tool? Look at Skil’s 10-inch band saw (above, left) and Black & Decker’s model 9411. Each is light, compact, and easy to store. And neither one suffers much in comparison with full-size saws. Both tools do everything you could expect of a band saw.
The Shopcraft four-inch belt sander is a tool in a class by itself. Never have I seen a belt sander with all the features this one has. Instead of traveling around the usual two rollers, the four-by-36-inch belt winds around an unusual arrangement of three rollers (photo at far left). This arrangement creates three separate sanding surfaces. One is the conventional long, flat surface top.
Anyone who has a shop wants a lathe, the ultimate fun tool. But a full-size lathe can eat up a lot of space—and several hundred dollars. The Benchmark Tool Shopcraft Wood Lathe (at top in photo) and Sears Drill-Powered Wood-Turning Attachment are two ways to circumvent these problems.
A drill press should be able to drill holes accurately, of course. But I expect mine to do much more than that. I’m just as likely to chuck a wire wheel, sanding drum, contour sander, fly cutter, or rotary rasp into my full-size drill press as I am to chuck in a twist drill bit.
The table saw is the heart of any wood shop, but both the Skilsaw 8¼-inch motorized table saw (above, left) and the Black & Decker eight-inch table saw (above, right) required lots of adjustments to make them work properly. I don’t expect a compact bench tool to have the power, capacity, or convenience features of a full-size tool.
When I first heard about the Dustless Sander Buffer, I was mildly amused. When I heard it had no motor but was powered from the suction of an ordinary shop vacuum, I nearly burst out laughing. Well, I’m not laughing anymore. The thing actually works.
Sunlight enters through a wooden lattice over translucent plastic. Temperatures with-in the enclosed, insulated attic space of this leisure home can build up to 150 degrees; then hot air is ducted to an under-floor plenum, which contains thermal mass that can store heat for up to a week of sunless days.
Plans available for do-it-yourself builders
The ideal wedding of passive solar and earth-sheltering just took place—and isn't it a handsome pairing? That louvered roof isn't just for looks, though: Strips of planters trail ivy and other leafy greens down over the plastic to cut solar gain in summer.
For your drill press, build this innovative tilting jig
With plywood, hard-board, and a special circle cutter or router, the home workshopper can build a tilting drill-press jig that makes boring holes at an angle a cinch. It’s designed to fit on a standard drill press, attaching to the table with carriage bolts. Its building time is less than three hours.
For years, I've found it difficult to drill accurate holes at an angle with my drill press. The problem was worse when I had to bore a series of angular holes in a circle. I was tempted to buy a tilting drill-press vise with a swivel base but quickly gave up on that idea after checking the prices.
That rattling sound in your engine is the audible sign of abnormal combustion. This black box listens for it and reduces ignition advance when ping occurs. This protects valves and pistons with-out the expense of high-octane fuel or power-robbing engine tweaks. A pro-shop owner tells how to install one.
Knocking out knock
The blood is just beginning to flow back from my head. For what seemed like hours, I lay under the dashboard of my 1978 Chevy while my wife, Marilynn, drove along Interstate 80 at her usual breakneck pace. Why the automotive gymnastics? I had installed a Carter Engine Knock Eliminator (EKE) under the dash, and to adjust the control unit’s sensitivity I had to turn a screw recessed in its housing.
They’re lighter and more compact than standard walkie-talkies, and more convenient, too: These clip-on transceivers have voice-activated microphones that allow hands-free use. However, the supersensitive mikes sometimes make for choppy transmissions. PS staffers found that special techniques are needed to ensure clear communications.
PS buyer's guide to clip-on walkie-talkies
Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street in Manhattan is one of the world's most elegant street corners. At noontime, it is also one of the noisiest. Throngs of people strain to be heard over roaring buses and honking taxis. What better place to try out one of the new clip-on walkie-talkies?
Add-on? Attachment? Peripheral? Poor descriptions. A printer is a necessity to anyone who wants to do real work with a personal computer. But you don’t have to pay $1,000 or more for acceptable print quality. Now for half that price—or less —a variety of new models is available. But there are major differences among them.
PS buyer’s guide to low-cost computer printers
More than specs
Three printing techniques
GORDON MC COMB
"And this one is only a thousand dollars, sir," the sales-lady pattered, pointing to a large, squat plastic box that sat on the showroom table. I didn’t have the nerve to tell her I had hardly spent that much for my entire computer. I just couldn’t see paying a grand for a printer—some-thing that, to my way of thinking, was an accessory to the computer, not the other way around.
A new generation of personal-computer software integrates all the common business applications in one package. You shift from word processing to spread-sheet analysis to data management to graphics without changing programs. The trade-off: Most do-everything software packages will run only on computers having 128 kilobytes or more of RAM.
Other approaches to integration
Buyer’s guide to do-everything software
GORDON MC COMB
Next to the whirring of disk drives, the most familiar sound to personal-computer users may be the thrumming of fingers. The telltale thrum occurs during many routine operations—including loading programs and saving data—when the user must sit and wait while the computer slowly does its thing.
Readers share their off-beat experiences in home computing
Most new heating-and-air-conditioning systems are “zoned.” In a forced-air system, that means, of course, that the house is broken into sections—one section may get more air than another for more-practical and economical heating or air conditioning.
What a word processor is to words, VCN Execuvision is to graphics. The program, written for the IBM PC, enables you to create an image that’s suitable for photo-graphing by choosing from hundreds of “pictures” stored on a library disk. The photo above shows some of the possibilities.
A color-TV set that features digital signal processing [PS, July ’82] will be offered late in 1984 by Matsushita, which makes Panasonic, Quasar, and other brands. Digital models, planned by several TV firms for 1984, have a microcomputer to process analog broadcast signals after they’re converted into digital form.
It comes in a box and can be turned into structures as diverse as a hospital, a bridge, a tent, a geodesic dome, and even a one-room bungalow. It’s the Integrated Self-containerized Building System (IBC), designed by Athens-based, Vienna-trained architect Ingrid Spendlingwimmer Fragantoni.
A new moisture-condensation system produces pure drinking water simply by sucking air through underground pipes. The chill of the earth condenses the moisture, producing a gallon or more daily under most conditions. The Airwell system, now in the prototype stage, should be on the market by next year.
Airwell test results
E. F. LINDSLEY
You could stumble over an Airwell without knowing it was there. When Don Brauer showed me the installation at his home, all I could see were two short, plastic pipes projecting above the lawn. “The working parts are under-ground,” Brauer, a vice-president at Airwell, Inc., told me.
Tracking solar reflectors of metallized polymer film could make large solar projects economical. The Solar Energy Research Institute’s tension technique offers structural support and optical accuracy.
Solar-power towers can generate steam for process heat or electric generation, but can they do it at a competitive price? The Solar Energy Research Institute says that to make such projects as the 10-megawatt Solar One [PS, Oct. ’82] viable, the cost of the heliostats that reflect sunlight to central receivers must be cut by at least five times.
A clinic on cars by Smokey Yunick, America’s most famous mechanic
Knock, knock; what’s that?
Go to the source
Diesel brakes weaker?
How many cars?
Stiff power steering
Midrange power loss
Cruise control runs amok
Quality’s the bottom line
No trailer pulling
When I step on the accelerator in my 1979 turbocharged Mercury Capri, the turbo overboosts and the engine pings and clatters. How can I eliminate this problem? Would water injection or a boost controller help? Brad Merrick, Davenport, Iowa Water injection really will help.
Mother Nature goofed. If logs were square, they’d be much easier for humans to carry and stack at the fireside. Still, there is a way to live with the present design: Build this log holder. It’s strong and easy to tote, making it a convenient carrier from the woodpile.
Most radial-arm saws can be converted to drum sanders. You can take advantage of this by making special-purpose jigs for thickness sanding and for elevating workpieces. The thickness-sanding jig (top sketch) has an opening into which the sanding drum extends so that the entire surface of the workpiece can be dressed (as long as the work is not wider than the drum’s length).
For the fisherman who has everything, here’s a tackle box to keep it in. Fashioned like a miniature chest of drawers, it provides quick, easy access to hooks, lures, swivels, sinkers, and assorted paraphernalia. All the equipment is neatly organized in compartmented drawers.
Occasional POPULAR SCIENCE contributor and good friend Ken Herrington of Napa Valley, Calif., put me onto a unique source for wall covering. If you’re seeking something different—especially for behind a wood stove —read on. Ken’s two photos (above) show a typical installation and—in that expert close-up—a bonus feature.
Many new imported cars are equipped with the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel-injection system. The airflow sensor plate is important to the injector’s precise operation, and a severe backfire can bend the plate. If it is bent or improperly adjusted, engine performance suffers greatly, and the plate must be replaced.
Climbing a 50-foot tower in even moderate wind can be dangerous. This tower allows you to service a windmill without having to climb it and take your life into your hands; the tower pivots to bring the machine down to ground level. Construction of the device is simple, materials are readily available, and the design is such that, if need be, a single person can raise the windmill.
BRUCE F. SHOPF
Windmills, like other machines, need servicing. But I wasn't happy about climbing a 50-foot pole—especially in windy weather. My solution: a pivoting pole. I knew that such a tower should be able to withstand 900 pounds or more of lateral force.
Since 1973, the Robert Bosch Corp. of Stuttgart, West Germany, has been working on a single-point electronic injection system for gasoline engines that could have the edge on GM’s throttle-body system [PS, Feb. ’82] in simplicity and cost.
Trying to find a specific piece of lumber in a woodpile can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. To save workshop space and keep my lumber neatly sorted, I built the rolling rack shown above. The rack holds lumber scraps in the vertical position to conserve valuable floor space.
If you drive screws with your electric drill, you know how fast and easy it is. There’s only one drawback: If you drill pilot holes, you must constantly switch from one bit to another. To get around this problem, I have always used two electric drills—one for the driver, the other for the pilot bit.