Category Archives: other

Gear Time: Adjusting a Mechanical Watch

Mechanical watches aren’t yet relegated to the sidelines completely; there are still numerous companies manufacturing thrifty automatic watches in the $80-150 range. Possibly the best example of such a watch is my current timepiece, one from venerable the Seiko ‘5’ line of watches. Unlike their quartz cousins, though mechanicals won’t need batteries (and often don’t need maintenance for over a decade), they do need adjustment to keep accurate time. My Seiko, which came from the factory about 5 s/day fast, has settled into a consistent 30s/day slow. Not wanting to pay a watchmaker $30 to do something I am capable of, I set about to adjust the mechanism.

 Seiko 5 Auto-winding watch –
pretty bulletproof, and looks decent to boot
Here’s what you’ll need:
  • A mechanical watch
  • A computer with Audacity or equivalent sound-recording program
  • A microphone
  • A quiet room
  • A set of micro screw drivers/bits
  • A magnifying glass (optional)
  • A watch case opener – I got mine for a song at Active Surplus in Toronto
How to do it:
  • Set it Up: Boot up your computer in a quiet room. Open up Audacity (or similar) and hook up a microphone. For me, I used my laptop’s built-in microphone. 
  • Record: Place the watch face-first up to the microphone, with as much contact as possible so the quiet ‘tick-tick’ can be recorded clearly. Leave it recording for ~15 seconds. 

  • Edit and Noise Reduce: depending on your microphone, you may (like me) need to use noise-removal plugins to clean up the signal, and visually show clear bumps for each ‘tick’. I also amplified the signal to make each point more noticeable.
  • Select the midpoint of the first hump (see below), and delete all before that position, bringing it flush with the 0.00s position.
  • Move forward to the 5-second position. Zooming in, check the time position for the last hump. It should be as close to being 5.00 seconds as possible. [Note: It *should* be a little under 5.00s, to compensate for knocks which will lose time]. If over 5.00s, your watch is running slow (losing time), and if under 5.00s, your watch is running fast (gaining time). 
Before adjustment: bump @ 5.0091s, After adjustment: bump @ 4.985s.
Slightly fast compensates for bumps & knocks through the day.
  •  Crunch the Numbers: For my watch, it has a listed BPH of 21 600, meaning at 100% accuracy, it is supposed to ‘tick’ 21600/hour. Dividing that by (60s x 60mins) = 6 beats per second, or 30 beats per 5 seconds. However, I had a time of 5.0091s for 5 beats – a calculated loss of about 144 seconds per day (which is far more than actual). 
  • Determine the Goal: Usually, the goal is to set the actual BPH ahead by 10 seconds per hour, to compensate for odd watch angles and knocks which actually slow it down slightly through the course of a day.  10 seconds = 60 beats, so my goal BPH was 21 660BPH. Dividing by (60s x 60mins) = 6.0167 bps, or 30.0833 beats per 5 seconds. Therefore my goal for 30 ‘ticks’ was: (30s / 30.0833) x 5s = 4.986s. 
Set a goal based on your watch’s BPH value
  • Adjust the Mechanism: If the watch band is metal, use a small screw tip bit, and release the watch band. 

  • Open the back of the watch with the watch opening tool.

  •  With a thing pointed screw driver and magnifying glass, tweak the adjuster of the hairspring on the balance wheel in the direction (+ or -) your timing needs to go. Be careful: this is the most delicate part of a watch, and also, a small adjustment goes a long way!

Adjustment: be sure to only move the adjustable mount
for the hairspring (circled in red), and not the fixed mount.
  • Close up the watch backing, record another sound clip, and crunch the numbers to see if you’ve come close to your goal. 

For me, I achieved 4.985s on my second try – very close to my 4.986s goal. The watch now runs about -2 seconds per day, meaning this entry-level watch surpasses COSC standards!

6 Months Later, Pt. 2

In the spirit of comparing how things have changed over the past half year, I thought I’d continue the theme, but this time, with a little trail construction.

June 16th:

And we’ve come a pretty long way since then, with the trail going out a good 300m more than before.

February 11th:

Yes. Quite the change, as the trail is now rounding the promontory made by the bluffs, and we can clearly see the beach of Bluffer’s Park, whereas we could only really see the tip before. The story is that the breakwater is to be connected up the the beachfront trail at Bluffer’s Park, so that it can form a single multi-use trail.

But what if we turn our gaze from westward to northward, and look at the bluffs? Why, we see this!

If you don’t see it already, there is a small dwelling leaning precariously off the bluff’s edge. Here’s a closeup:
Hello, Mrs. Van! Is Billy home?

This Meadowcliffe Drive building has actually been hanging off the bluff’s edge on  since early 2008 when a large chunk of bluff collapsed. This house once belonged to Billy Van,  the Toronto-born singer, actor and comedian. Huh.

You can see some better pictures of Billy Van’s house up-close here.

Tube Amp

I have other loves in life other than cycling – some of them being electrical projects. I’ve been working on this baby for a while – but, only recently has it recieved its power transformer. I pulled the transformer from an old ceiling fan; 120v to 24 volts, with ~ 1/3 amp supply capability. And that voltage happens to be *almost* exactly what I need for the heater filament of the single 25EH5 tube that comprises the amp. However, measuring the wall voltage at an actual level of 126 volts, the voltage coming out of the transformer is actually above 25 volts (ie. 120/24=5, 126/5= 25.2 volts). This is well within the 10% tolerance of  the vacuum tube’s operational voltage range, being only .9% off of ideal. Right now, until I find/build a proper wooden cabinet for it, the entire amp resides in an old margarine container.

Fire hazard: kids at home, never mount a transformer to anything
using tape. Even if the tape is electrical tape.

The rest of the amp’s circuit is very basic; it is “single-ended”, has a simple solid-state bridge rectifier (although I was contemplating a tube rectified version…), and uses random bits and bobs for its other electrical organs. Yes, low-fi, but still should have that “mellow”,  interesting tube-based sound.

The dark (and tangled) underbelly of the beast….

I’m still waiting for a cheap 1 watt resistance-matched output transformer, from the 5000 ohms of the tube’s plates to 8 ohm for the speakers. As this has only cost me $15 for all the parts so far, I’d rather not pay $30 for a single part if it can be had otherwise!

Crappy 15-sec B&W exposure of the tube in operation


While not strictly pertaining to the object of this blog, it’s here anyway:

Finally: A book costs more in the US than Canada!

Looks as if someone didn’t take care to check for punctuation, which, as we can see, makes all the difference. This is the back of my copy of “Love in the Time of Cholera”, which we had to read for school. Look – the proof’s on the paper…

EDC, please.

Yes, the wonderful “Everyday Carry”, or as I prefer to call it, the EDC; n. Meaning the items, often those which are used everyday, in conjunction with certain commonly-needed tools, which are carried on the body of person. I finally have my set in near completion. It is currently missing a tritium glow marker (look it up – they are really neat, and only *slightly* radioactive), a knife, and a quick-release A&P Aircraft Mechanic’s key ring. I’ve already a knife to go on there, but, because I bring it to school, I don’t usually attach it. The admin/staff “frown” upon such things, and as such I would rather not risk it.

What I have on it currently:
-House Keys
-Bike lock key
-Ultrafire MCU-C7 flashlight
-And one capsule lighter
-Knife (occasionally – not shown)

The flashlight is real bright – 200 lumens on max. For comparison, the average incand. flashlight is ~25 lumens. The machining ain’t great, but for $12 CAD, it isn’t too crappy. I, for a period of time, had it modded with a 2mm led in the tailcap to glow at all times – using a 6000 ohm resistor(if I remember correctly), it drew .2 miliamps. No mistake, it was .2, and still very visible. This made for a runtime of  >6 mos. on one battery. This, along with my capsule lighter, was bought from Deal Extreme. Be prepared to wait for 2-month shipping.

In the sink: Beamshot under water. Everything is 100% waterproof

The capsule lighter is pretty nifty. It’s waterproof, and darned near bullet-proof with its metal container. Runs on the standard liquid fuel, but here’s where it shines – the fact that it screws shut prevents it from drying out! I can’t tell you how annoyed I’ve been when I’ve picked up my zippo after a month of it sitting idle, only to find it in need of a refill.

Oh, and it is much smaller than a zippo:

It may be smaller, but its got a lotta heart…

For knives, I have a choice between my classic Victorinox “Camper” multi-knife, or my new favorite, the cheapo mini Maxam lockblade.

Swiss Army knife vs. Maxam knife

Now, if  TEOTWAWKI were to occur while I’m out ‘sploring, I’ll be at least a little more prepared.

Merry (Orthodox) Christmas

I didn’t do a post for the traditional Christmas celebration this year – I was away. However, I happen to know today is the official Orthodox Christmas, celebrated by most Eastern Orthodox churches (ie., Greek, Russian, Macedonian, etc.). Most don’t know this in North America and Western Europe; so, now you know, wherever you may be! Theses churches run their liturgical year based on the Julian calender as opposed to the Gregorian, and so it explains the date shift. The Catholic church adopted the “new” calender under Pope Gregory XIII, ergo, the namer. The Julian calender, by the same token, was popularized/adopted by Julius Caesar. I get to celebrate both Christmases – I’m Catholic, but my ma’s side of the family is Macedonian Orthodox. Best of both worlds, if you ask me!

That’s all for today, I’m hitting the hay.

Family Visits

Went to visit family in Kingston this past weekend. The Clan is getting larger by the year… I’ve too many cousins to count. Well, 13. Or is it 14? Oh, and enough aunts and uncles to sink the Titanic as well – which, for all we know, they may very well have. We (my immediate family) who live in Toronto, however, are not that numerous, but still manage to have a very poor track record for being punctual, despite not having to deal with as many bodies to get organized. The plan this Christmas: we get packed Friday to leave by 8:30 AM Saturday for K-town. The actual result: finished packing by 2 AM Saturday, left at 10:00 AM after we dragged ourselves out of bed. And then we got caught in a snow storm:

Scary drive up – hit snow squalls in Trenton, the average speed on the 401 dropped to ~50 km/h, but yet a few intrepid drivers (a crazy in a wee hatchback and then a redneck in a hummer) plugged away at high-speed. And with them too went many of the 18-wheelers (one started to split lanes as we were passing! f@*&!) – any that, my friends, is why I like freight trains.

We arrived 4 hours late, and so missed ice skating w/ the rest of the clan (*sob!*), as well as arrived ‘fashionably late’ to the Christmas party. All else went well, till we were nearly late for church the following day.

We weren’t so late as to miss the sunset at the lodge, however!

Oh – one interesting (well, odd, at least) thing that I saw this weekend, travelling back at night:

Just a TV, Chillin’ outside 

It’s a TV set, on at 11 PM in the cold, outside, in front of a closed eatery. Any takers? It’s somewhere near the intersection of MacDonnell and Princess streets in Kingston. Sorry about the blurry photo; it was late and the car was moving too quickly to take a good shot.

Slings ‘n Things

There is going to be a shorter post today – I’ve homework to get though, and a laser-quest game! Yes, laser-quest; I am a Scouter (well, scouter-in-training) with a scout troop (good for the community hours, and having a few outtings isn’t so bad either!), and I’m there supervising tonight. But I get to play too, so I’m not complaining! I’ll post some pics of this later… its sure to be fun. Ahead of time, I would like to apologize for my poor pictures – my Sony DSC just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore.

On friday, my friend and I built some mini-crossbows out of rubber bands and rulers in math class – it was a free period – and perforated apples with ’em. This gave me an idea: what other ‘weapons’ can I fashion from things lying around my house (or school room)? The result: the humble sling, made from cotton twine and a strip of an orphaned sock for the basket.

My homemade sling. Can you believe Goliath got toasted by one of these?


Slings work by multiplying the working force upon the stone, by effectively acting as an extension to your arm. One end of the string has a finger loop, the other, knots. You swing the sling to build up momentum, and then release the knotted end, thus throwing the rock. This homemade sling does the trick – it does indeed fling stones a good distance, to about 100 meters. Unfortunately, due to the sock pouch, rock tend to slip out, and also the thin strings always get tangled.
I tested this sling in a park nearby, and got there by biking. It was snowing today, and since I always am looking for an excuse to snow cycle, this testing was one excuse that couldn’t be passed up. Too bad it was a little windy – otherwise, it wasn’t too cold. About -7C by my estimates.

Ignore the purpleness – it was actually quite nice with a white covering of snow everywhere. I had to beware of ice, though. 

Right now, I’m running my ‘winter’ set-up: I’ve switched into some 41mm Chen Shin ‘Dual Sport’ tyres, which really have quite a bit of traction even when at the max. 75 psi. Still like skates on ice, I found out. I’m thinking of ghetto-winterizing the tyres by shoving some tacks through them – anybody out there with advice on this?
Back to the story: Found some rocks and tested it. Knocked a tree ~30m away hard enough to knock down snow from the braches.

Rock in the sling.

 So, for anyone wondering, Yes!… David probably wouldn’t have had a hard time taking down Goliath, especially since he had years of training and I was still able to whack a tree with 5 minutes practice. 

Camera, taking picture from sling. Note: No cameras
were harmed in the taking of this pciture
That’s about it for today, I’m off to do math.

1st Post!

How exactly does one go about kicking off a new blog? Well, I’m not sure exactly, so I’ll just start with an introduction. I’m a highschool student in Toronto, and today I should be working on my homework, but as I have recently finished a 18-page long maths portfolio (for friday!), I feel like being lazy. And the weather isn’t making me want to get it done, either:
Raining – no biking today.


With the day miseable,  I should be spending time on academic purposes. However, with rain comes no motivation to finish – it is not as if I will be able to spend my time in ways I like. Perfect day to start a blog, non?

I enjoy the experience of getting to know my city better – since I’ve taken up cycling four years ago, I’ve become a lot more familiar with the Scarborough area (where I live!) as well as the more ‘Toronto’ part of Toronto. So, to elaborate, I’ve made my way down town by bike – I don’t just stick around the boonies. Besides, I’m a fan of the ‘city’ feel, with packed streets and the anonimity that comes with this. Did I also mention I love the architechture of late 19th/early 20th century buildings, especially the decrepit and the industial buildings: I do urban exploring, so abandonments and old industrials are particularly cool to behold(in my opinion).
My bikes also bring me to school (except in winter), and take me on tours. I’ve two rigs: my ~35lb GT Vantara touring rig, and my ~22 lb fixed/single speed.

Mine’s on the right!

I personally have logged >5000km on the GT, but the bike is as old as I am and has seen another 2000 clicks from the original owner; my dad. That’s what I’ve asked for as a holiday gift – we’ll see whether my father decided to go with bar-ends or STIs! Right now though, it is equipped with a 3 x 7 drivetrain, and that’s outdated, but more than enough. Its seen me through touring, and by gosh, no whippiness at all, probably due to its 10lb frame built of plain-gauge Tange. This is my main rig, takes me everywhere!
Flamboyant? Maybe, but I love it just the same.

Don’t judge me – I’m not a hipster. I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about single speed and fixed gear.
“Then why did you go for red?!?”, you must be asking. Well, I like candy canes, so with white deep-v’s, and red-line tyres, it looks rather like candy. Plus, I just like red, and it is way better than the black spray paint that came on the old 10-speed frame.

I appologize for the crappy camera quality – the Sony point-and-shoot digital cam’s sensor died when I left it out in the cold. My only other camera is film – an Olympus 35sp Rangefinder – and I save the film for shots I feel are really worth it.

Here’s a picture of my rig I thought worth taking. Or maybe I just
only had my film camera handy?

So, there we have it, and that about wraps up the first post. A very long post, but I believe a good footing for what is to come.