Saturday, July 14, 2018

Dad's APH-5 Flight Helmet

Spent some time restoring Dad's APH-5 old flight helmet today. The helmet is from around 1957. In the early 70's Dad had stripped the helmet of the headphones and microphone for use with his ham radio. And then the visor was broken and the knob to retain it lost, probably due to my playing with it as a kid!

I was able to source original replacement parts on eBay and from a helpful person on the forum at I disassembled the helmet cleaned it slightly and then carefully soldered some wires and fitted the pieces back together. It will be a great display piece!

More pictures:

And here is a funny card Dad received during his helicopter training. It appears they handed these out after the student mastered hovering and some other maneuvers.

Even the back is a little strange! This must have had some strange meaning to the pilots...

Monday, June 18, 2018

Bosch GLL 100 Green-Beam vs Bosch GLL 2-15 Comparison Test and Review

Bosch GLL-100 vs Bosch GLL 2-15 outdoors on an overcast day in the buildings shadow.
These lasers were set up 7 feet from the wall.
The arrows point to the crossing point of the respective beams.

My trusty Bosch laser level is a great thing but it just doesn't work in daylight. I'm always waiting for dusk to use it on outdoor projects. I've heard these new green lasers are better, and the manufacturers advertise them as 4x brighter. So I decided to get one and try it.

Outcome: The new Bosch GLL-100 is not much better than my old GLL 2-15. And it is much larger. I will not be keeping it. Note the attached photo, taken on an overcast day in the building's shadow. The green laser is just barely visible, a bit better than the red laser. But still not usable outside. If you are using this indoors and do not mind the size and price, or just need a new unit, it is great. But I wouldn't recommend it as an "upgrade".

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Garage Attic Design

I've seen a couple posts about garage attics lately and that prompted me to document mine a little better. Having done it, frankly, I think it is a mistake to build any garage that has a good pitched roof without an attic (unless you are doing a cathedral type ceiling for your car lift or something).

We moved from a larger home to a much smaller one in the city, and the new home is a 1926 Craftsman, with very limited closet space. We knew we were going to build a garage and a very usable attic became a priority. I'm mostly a motorcycle guy so the garage didn't need high ceilings for a lift and I kept 8' ceilings in there. But the city also limits the heights of garages to 15' so my attic space was destined to be cramped.

I decided it was very important to have a great garage stairway, and I documented that a while back here:

I found getting the trusses I wanted a bit of an exercise. The truss company was run by a fairly ornery codger and communicating with him was tough. He was happy to design the trusses for free as part of the truss order, but I wasn't sure he was really optimizing the truss to my needs. But I found he had the trusses stamped by an outside engineer, and I just contacted that guy and he was very happy to help.

Given that I wanted to maximize my headroom, we used a triangle at the apex of the truss, instead of the typical cross piece that would have reduced headroom.

Also, my trusses are "strangely" spaced, as I wanted a larger gap for a wider stairway, and the building itself wasn't designed in an increment of 2' for the trusses to be evenly spaced.

My design was checked for 200# per truss for the stairs, plus 40 PSF total load in the 9’ wide attic area. Note also that my truss is worse case design at 28.5” on-center, with the trusses at 1’-4” and 2’ on center not carrying as much load.
The wide spacing was to accommodate the stairway, and that is only in one spot. Most of the trusses are on 24" centers, so that effectively makes things more robust than the calcs show.

These are still pretty basic trusses made of 2x6, 21' long, 6/12 pitch. 13 trusses (9 attic plus 2 end trusses) cost me $1870, delivered, here in expensive San Diego.

Here the attic truss design. Note the triangle at the peak, and the maximized attic area. It's not quite tall enough for a short person like me to stand it, but you can move around up there.

Here are the end trusses. A wider space open in the center is for the attic fan on one end. On the other end we have a fancy vent, so the verticals were spaced to match that design.

Here are two shots during construction.

And on this shot shows the fan end vent from the inside. Also note the 3/4" plywood floor.

A garage attic. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

San Diego Historical Homes: How to get the "Mills Act" Historical Designation

We live in a pretty little home that has received the "Historical Designation" here in San Diego.
When we were house shopping, we had hoped to find a home that either was eligible for the historic designation or already had it. I did do a lot of research on the matter and wanted to document some of that here.

People often ask me how to get the designation. In short, you hire a professional who researches your home and it's eligibility and they handle the application with the city. There are a couple architects and other firms that do this here and if you google I am sure you can find them

But the city also provides a lot of background information about how to apply. You can learn all about it here:
San Diego Historic Preservation FAQ

I often recommend  that if your house seems "very eligible", consider doing the research and making the application yourself. Now, I have never done this, but it seems worth considering! And no matter what happens, you might learn some things about your home.

 Here are some tips that are not spelled out in the FAQ above:

Was your home built by a Master Builder?
The city keeps a list of "Master Builders". These are recognized builders and if one of them built your home it is a good start to being found "historical":
Biographies of Established Master Builders

If your house was built by one of these "Masters" and another home very similar to your home has been approved, you may be able to use much of the information from the approved home's application.

Has your home been surveyed already?
There are also old surveys of the homes in the city, like this one of North Park, that list homes that may be of historic interest:
2004 North Park Historical Survey
That survey lists most of the homes in North Park, and hints at whether the homes are "contributing or "non-contributing".

You can also check the 2011 North Park Historical Survey

And there are lots of other surveys here:
San Diego Historic Contexts and Surveys

Is your home just like one that already has been approved?
And here is the actual list of homes already approved:
San Diego Historical Register as of 2014
(There may be more recent versions of this available)

How to find the "Full Nominations" (Applications) and "Final Resolutions" for homes that have already received the Historic Designation?
If you find that your home is just like another home that has already been "designated" you can look up the the application.
Here is the California Historical Resources Inventory Database

Here is a home I have randomly picked from the database above:
Look at the wealth of information available! I'd suspect that if your house looked just like that and was built by the same builder you could likely use most of that application to write your own application for your home.
You can also see what professional firms have done successful applications by looking at the applications for the homes already designated. If I was hiring a firm to do this for me, I'd use one of those.

Have fun researching your home! And always consider hiring a professional to do the application, it is probably a lot easier.

PS: On what structures to include in your application:
Be careful what you include in your application for the "Historical Designation". You can choose what buildings and other features are included in the application and you may choose to leave out items. For instance, you may wish to apply for your house, all the hardscape (walkway, driveway) and the separate garage. But after the designation, then you may not be able to change your walkway, or make your garage into a residential unit! So you may wish to only apply for the main residential structure.