Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Steve's Backpack

I think I'm getting pretty close to standardizing my backpack design. This one's a little bit better than my last one, and there's only so much further I can go. Ha.
15" across, 17" high, 7" thick. 1000d Cordura, acrylic-coated poly.

5" of fold-over. Loading handle: I've been loving mine on my pack. So convenient.
Three compression straps on the sides. We all know how well two straps worked on the bottom of Timbuk2s (when they had compression straps)...why would only two work on the side of a pack?
This has a chisel bottom (aka a wedge bottom). This directs the load towards your back, and keeps the bottom from sagging, so you don't need any compression straps on the bottom.
D-rings on the top compression straps for easy opening. I haven't yet put these on my own pack. They make life a lot easier. Ha.
Curved shoulder straps, removable/adjustable sternum strap. I personally like my sternum straps sewn to the pads, but this is a more adjustable system.
One-piece floating liner. Small inside pocket. Removable back pad/document pocket.

Removable side pockets:

Open bottom: fits the bottle better, and allows any water in the pocket to drain.

I like removable side pockets because they allow the compression straps to function independently from the side pockets...if you want 'em to. Some times your pack it going to be empty save for two water bottles (and you'll want to cinch it tight). And some times your pack is going to be completely full, and you'll still want to fit water bottles in the side pockets. And some times, you won't even want the side pockets there.
Leif Labs: we're all about the straps.

And Dennis, modeling the pack in the clover patch.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Juki DNU-241

I know I just bought two new sewing machines, but I was looking at used machines on eBay...and I bought this 241 to use as a dedicated binding machine. It was a deal.
I think I've developed a bad sewing machine habit, though...
The sad thing is: this machine's seen years of manufacturing, yet it sews better than the 1541S...though that's not a hard feat, I suppose, considering the 1541S doesn't sew at all.
Anyway, I'm pretty excited about this. I love the look of these older "gold" Jukis.
The 241: the father of the 1541. This model is no longer in production. I'm not sure when they stopped, but there are white 241's out there, too. They also made one with a safety clutch and some with other doodads. Sadly this does not have the clutch.
This machine has a li'l story. It used to belong to the Bestop company in Colorado. They make tarps 'n' things that cover your pickup truck bed. They've recently moved production to Mexico and left all their machines in Colorado. A liquidation company bought their old machines. And I purchased one from them. A blow to US manufacturing, and a boon to Leif Labs (and Mexico, I suppose).
Not too bad down there...
No timing belt like on the 1541.
Dirty, dirty.
And, sadly, it's been touched with stupid hands:
How did this happen?
Yeah...look at the area around the top screw...

It makes nice stitches, though. It was pretty banged up when I got it (more on that later), but I made some adjustments, and unbent some things, and now it sews pretty well...
But not in the longest stitch. I still have to tweak some things. Ha.

And I did have half of an electronic needle positioner, but it was totally destroyed in shipping. It was sticking out of the box when I received it...
I don't really need one, but it would've been kinda cool to have one that wasn't all smashed up. At least I have some cartridge bearings, I guess.
If you don't know what a needle positioner does, let Cobra Steve explain here.

And here's how it came:
This is absolutely the worst packing job I've ever seen. I think this machine was boxed up by four-year-olds after huffing spray paint. Seriously. It's not even one whole box. It's two, shoddily taped together. I think a burlap bag would've been a better shipping container than this box. At least the machine wouldn't've fallen though the bottom with a bag. Damn.
Hats off to FedEx, I suppose, for not cracking the machine casing. The EPS was destroyed, thread guides were bent, and the feed base was knocked outta whack, but at least it sews now, I guess.
Stay tuned for the binding part of this machine...after I get around to ordering it. Ha.
Happy trails.

It's a Juki Disastro

NOTE: Scroll down for updates & fixes.

Well, not really a disastro ... I've just been listening to CocoRosie lately.
Though, my brand-new Juki DNU-1541S is still not working and that's close to a disaster.

After hours of contemplation and watching the hook spin round and round I've figured out that the hook assembly is most likely defective, or was damaged somehow at the factory. Either way, there's a rough spot in the rotation of the hook that causes the assembly to seize up when there's enough lateral pressure applied to it.

Hook assembly pictured above. The inside part with the post is called the basket. It rocks back 'n' forth slightly while the hook rotates around it and is held in place by the bobbin case holder.

The first time I was sewing with this machine, I was going slowly over some number-eight cotton duck, everything's going well, beautiful stitches ... sewing over a few more layers of duck on top of that, and then boom! the machine jams up.
I thought it must've been a bad needle strike, or something like that, and the safety clutch went off. But it wasn't that at all. It took me a while to figure it out -- days -- but here's what's going on:

When there's force on the basket, such as when the machine is handling heavy material, the basket and hook lock up. This makes the basket pop outta place and rotate with the hook. (Note the top red arrow above: This is the li'l nubbin that keeps the basket in place [the finger on the bobbin case holder]. With the second arrow, above, you can see the needle coming down through the slot in the basket.)
Here the basket has popped out of place and is rotating with the hook. The needle is continuing to descend...
...and will collide with the basket ... now! Your needle will now be missing its tip and your case opener (that lever on the bottom of the photo) will now be pointing to the right, knocked outta place.

The great tragedy of this is that Juki sewing machines have such a good reputation that no one believes me when I tell them that I'm having trouble with my hook assembly. They usually try to blame the problem on me, or tell me to call someone else ... in circular fashion.
And since this only happens with heavier material, it wasn't caught at the factory during the final sew off.
Fortunately, Juki America has been fairly helpful, and I've sent my hook in for inspection.

Note: I've received my replacement hook and I've just installed it. So far so good. Thanks, Juki! [Keep reading for more updates.]

Though, I swear this machine must be cursed. First I received a defective table leg, then the motor belt was too small to match the drilled holes, now a crummy hook assembly.
Sheesh. Give me a break.
Lucky I still have my Tacsew 111. Almost half the price and sewing strong.

So here's me taking the hook assembly off (don't do it like this -- the whole thing comes off w/o taking it apart):
I was hoping to just move the feed base up a bit and slide the whole assembly out, but the thing's so complicated on this machine, I just took the assembly apart and got it out that way.
[Note: I figured out you can just loosen the bobbin finger/holder (that piece with the nubbin on it) and swing it out of the way and that leaves just enough room for the hook assembly to slide out. That's when the feed dog is at its highest point.]

Above and below is the hook with no basket.
Made a li'l mark on the machine so I can roughly line it back up ... though, there's a groove in the hook shaft...
[Note: Lucky there's a groove 'cause I forgot what position the needle was at. You need another reference point, otherwise this is useless. Ha.]
Needle plate removed. The hook just about to come back up. This is where the hook would snatch the thread loop.
No more hook assembly.

Update (5/10/15)
Probably should've updated this years ago, but I only use this machine occasionally now, mostly just for thick foam applications ... but I've recently received some emails from people with this same problem and seen this problem come up on some forums, so here it is:

After I installed my new hook assembly back in oh-10 I still experienced the dreaded hook jam, though not as much as with the original hook assembly. I've thus concluded that these hooks are bad -- bad to the bone. [If I can't get other hooks in other sewing machines to jam the same way by pushing on the bobbin, and I can with the 1541S, there's definitely something wrong with this hook, but maybe that's just me.] Though, I've figured out a way to work around this issue. First, let's look at the threading diagrams for the 1541 and 1541H (heavy duty):

Above is the threading diagram for the 1541 and 1541S (safety clutch). Note the sliding thread guide (red star). This is used to adjust how much thread goes around the bobbin -- or something like that. I can't find it addressed specifically in the manual.

Now look at the threading diagram for the heavy duty class. No sliding thread guide! This is key. Here's what I think is going on:

These machines are set up to sew through a couple layers of upholstery material, and when you go to sew through anything heavier, there isn't enough thread to go around the hook assembly smoothly, putting inward force on the bad bobbin basket, which then binds.

To avoid locking up the bobbin, I've been threading the machine the H way (or similar) with good results. This is how I was threading it the last time I used it, sewing 1/2-inch closed-cell foam and Cordura. I've skipped the sliding thread guide and the square thread guide, leaving plenty of thread to travel around the bobbin.

Notice the sliding thread guide is oriented the wrong way. I'm pretty sure threading it like this will actually take up more thread. I was playing around with different guide configurations a while back. I should set it back the way it was...
Here is another look at the hook assembly and related parts. Juki has a real nice database. You just need to set up a user name and password.

If this happens to you, the hook assembly will catch the needle and the machine will jam. If you're sewing at speed, your needle will shear off. Clean out your ruined needle and thread and turn the handwheel backwards till the hook assembly pops back into place on the finger and then look for issues (you will most likely have to reset the case opener lever (on an S class). You may have to adjust your threading, as shown above. Or it's possible thread has been pulled into the hook raceway and caused the jam.
This might be caused by another issue, brought up by a sewing tech on (2/7/11):

Re: JUKI 1541-S shuttle/hook assembly out of whack, help me fix it!

I know exactly what is wrong, and I can explain how I know; because I check every Juki DNU-1541S before it leaves my shop for this known (by us) issue with this model, out of the box.
I can't tell you how to fix it, as I do not care to go head to head with another sewing machine mechanic. They may have a different resolution to this that I do, and I don't want to get into a tit for tat, he said she said brouhaha.

But, I can tell you what I know for absolute sure; the hook supporting plate/bobbin case finger that holds the bobbin case/inside hook from spinning is hanging on by a finger nail, and does not go in far enough. Unless this is taken care of, this will be an issue that will continue to plague this machine.

I've reset my hook placement before, and tested it by hand to make sure it was solidly engaging with the finger, and still had it pop off. There is quite a lot of force behind that hook when it jams. The finger-placement problem explains why it comes freely on certain 1541s, though -- and is maybe further proof of a larger quality issue with these machines.

And here is a thread on where the hook assembly popped free.

I'm hoping, as I use this machine more, the hook breaks in and never does this again. I oil my hook manually now, and I'm pretty cautious when I sew heavier stuff. Hopefully one day I can relax while I use this machine. :)

Update (5/25/16). I've been informed by a sewing machine mechanic that there is a break-in period for hooks -- even high-speed Juki hooks. He recommends turning the hook oiler all the way up.

Update (6/30/20, Year of the Covid). I've had a request on how to adjust the bobbin case positioning finger (that thing with the nubbin that keeps the bobbin basket in place).

The idea here is that you want the nubbin to go into the bobbin-basket notch far enough to keep the basket in place if there's some friction in the raceway, but not too far that there's no room for the thread to pass around the nubbin. You'll probably have to do this through trial and error. It's possible that if the basket has popped out a lot, your nubbin may have been damaged and you'll need to secure a new finger.

Here's what that finger looks like outside of the machine:

And here's where the screw is that allows you to adjust the finger. Again, don't take your hook apart to get it out ... just remove the finger.

Good luck!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Win a Musette Bag!

>>>Update<<< The bag has been spoken for.
You may now continue reading the post:

Well...maybe "win" is the wrong word...
My friends are raising money for their friend's son, who has a rare respiratory disease. The money will go towards medical travel expenses.

Learn about their efforts here: Running For Ayrie.

So...the first person to donate 50 dollars gets a coupon for one free musette bag (aka a tiny messenger bag) made by me.
This is a semi-custom bag, so you get to choose the fabric color (from what I have on hand) and something simple to be appliqued on the bag's flap. I'm thinking simple shapes, like stars, clouds, squares, half moons, and such. No names or anything too complicated...unless your name is Al, or Oz.

Your bag'll look something like this:
Sans horse.

These are nice little everyday bags, for when you don't need to carry too much stuff.
They measure about 15" (across the top) by 11" (deep) by 3" (thick, at the bottom).
They have one outside front pocket, and one inside pocket with pen slot.
If you ask nicely, I can change up or add more pockets...within design reason.
They will be made outta Cordura nylon, or cotton duck--your choice.

I'm not taking orders for custom bags right now, so this is a unique opportunity to get a semi-custom bag.

Again, visit Running For Ayrie to support a good cause.
Learn about how these bags are made and designed here.
And if this is your first visit to this blog, learn about Leif Labs here.
cory/Leif Labs

Xtracycle Upgrade

Just got some sweet new parts for my Xtracycle...
Yes! wings. Hopefully these will allow me to go even faster.
Awesome handlebars!
And thus ends this chapter of my quest to make the most awesomest (or goofiest) bicycle in town.
Oh, I also put a shorter stem on this thing. I had to get a downhill stem, though. Why is it so hard to find short "regular" stems (for cheap)? Hmm...
I'll be on the lookout for some sweet fenders next. Maybe those hammered-metal ones from Velo Orange. Mmm...