Ultimate climbing phone case

Here is version 3 of my climbing phone case. My goals in a DIY phone case were:

  • prevent dropping phone
  • make phone photography quick, easy and safe
  • protect phone both at belays, mid-pitch shooting, and in offwidths
  • Be durable and light
  • protect phone in a fall
  • Not sound like a noisy cowbell

During lead climbing, I clip a locker thru the top, so it’s sealed like a grigri.

When shooting, I move the locker from the top aluminum tabs to the nylon cord.

If I stop shooting, I drop the phone in the case. If I need more security, I can snap on the bungy cord closure. This is also how I carry it in my backpack.

If it rains, I can carry the phone case upside down in my pocket or pack, it’s waterproof.

This was a full day of work, plus 3 hours of welding. My buddy C is a nuclear qualified welder…he works on submarines. I can’t afford his rates so I agreed to give him one of my 3 hour plein air paintings in trade.

I need to find a way to make them from ultra durable, crush proof plastic.

City of Rocks 2019

Alex, Kristi, Chris J. and Pam all spent some time at the City of Rocks with me over the last two weeks. I got there early and sketched for a couple days.

I did three pen sketches and two oils. We did a lot of the usual stuff on Elephant rock and the Breadloaves. My four days with Pam were the best as we are both hard core climbers, dawn to dusk.

Alex did do a hard lead on Crack of Doom 11c. I couldn’t get past the boulder move. I also got up Mystery Bolter with one hang. That thing is so intimidating. Those run outs are terrifying, yet the climbing is fine and quite sticky. You just have to stick to the main line, even left a little, as you pass the second to last bolt. Past the last bolt it’s dead easy right up to the anchor. We were surprised to find we could rap off with a 60 meter.

My hardest lead was Aspen Leaf 10a at the upper west breadloaves. I hung all over it, blew all the delicate stem moves. What’s weird is I think I led it clean with Julia ten years ago. Because of my constantly changing partners I never got on some of the harder trad lines like bloody fingers and private idaho. Still, two weeks of climbing in the city may have given me a good start on the rest of the summer at index.

 

A rear ender

I wrote this in response to a story in the New York times today.

There is a fine line between hitting on someone and simply being social. Beautiful women of any age get hit on so regularly that I feel like my safest choice is to ignore them. Later, if and or when we become friends socially, they’ve told me they thought I was shy, or awkward.

My wife used to complain about all the men hitting on her. She has always been very fit and curvy. One of our climbing friends used to talk to her, but he would rarely look in her eyes, preferring the view of her chest. Guy was a jerk, but we put up with it because he and his wife were reliable climbing partners.

And yet…one of her proudest moments is when she was in her twenties with a new pair of rollerblades. She was skating on a bike path next to a road in Seattle wearing her favorite pink running shorts. A car slowed down to enjoy the view. She turned to see who the creeper was, and watched as another car slammed into his rear end, causing a bad accident.

Now that she is in her sixties, when someone hits on her it makes her day. “I was getting my coffee and this old dude started talking to me. He was totally hitting on me! But he was really nice,” she’ll tell me later, with a big smile. Beautiful people of either sex are lovely to look at, like a rare sunset, or a rainbow. But as my wife frequently reminds me, “It’s ok to look, just don’t stare.”

Sue in 79

Sue in 79

Sue in 79

Built a custom WordPress theme

I teach wordpress at work, and last quarter I had a student who wanted a really fancy wordpress site. She didn’t like any of the free themes. I told her I’d been tinkering with a custom theme for a couple years, but had never tried to use it on real, meaningful content. I simply had too many questions about how a custom theme worked in real life.

She was willing to put in the time, and I was being paid to teach…so we chipped away at it in the afternoons for a few weeks. Her website ended up looking so good I decided to try my hand coded custom theme on my 9 year old wordpress site. You are looking at it now. It’s a reasonably close match to my main www.websterart.com website, which is all handbuilt, not using wordpress. I’ve yet to try getting the PhotoSwipe plugin to work. Well, I did get it to work with my theme, but it caused problems.

WordPress, by default, puts thumbnails in definition lists. But PhotoSwipe requires them to be in figure elements. And I’d like to style the figure elements in variable column-count columns. However, there is simply too much code going on with his switch from dl’s to figures, which happens in JavaScript. More on that later.

There is a lot going on here. As far as explaining it, I don’t even know where to start. I may write a tutorial on it later. If you’d like to get the zip file of the theme, it is here. Be forewarned though, a lot of what goes on is in the form of widgets, menus and plugins that get added after you activate the theme in the wordpress dashboard.

The Whippers

“So Chris, you need to be ready, I’m probably going to clip the last bolt, climb up to the top and jump off.”

“Give me a lot of slack, like, have the rope practically laying on the deck. I don’t want it tight because I might whip into the wall.”

I carefully tied my knot with a very long tail so I could do a clean, half a grapevine back up knot. Before I pulled the figure eight tight, I clipped a round bodied metolius locker into the bottom loops of the knot. This makes a locked up knot easier to untie.

Bobbi saw me do it and gave me an evil grin: “I know what that means”.

Chris said: “I’m not really a huge fan of these intentional falls, seems like it’s needlessly stressing the system”.

“Bobbi can belay me, if you don’t wanna’ do it” I said.

“No, no, I’m fine”

“Ok, just be ready, and keep a lot of slack in the rope”.

“Ok, so if at any time you say you want to take or rest on the rope, I’ll just let you fall”

“Yup, that’s only fair” I said.

I climbed smoothly up through the dozen clips to the top of the wall, being extra careful to clip each bolt cleanly from secure stances. I watched each biner clip closed almost in slow motion, my focus absolute. I knew that I could not make a mistake. Every move was calculated and accurate.

As I clipped the last draw I still had some power in reserve on the steeply overhanging white 5.10. I climbed up to the top of the wall where the lowering clips were and simply grabbed on. I looked down at Chris, who I could clearly see was exactly where he should be, in brake position, with a long loop of slack.

I looked down at my tie in knot, with it’s backup knot to make sure everything was fine, and then let go. I quickly accelerated to a speed that felt far too fast, falling freely through the air at least 20 feet. I had very little panic, secure in the knowledge that the system was secure. As the rope caught me 30 feet off the ground, most of the people who were standing around on the floor jerked their heads up, sensing and hearing the noise of the draws banging on the wall as the rope came tight, and the body falling from high above.

Chris lowered me down carefully, to the watching climbers, who slowly turned away now that the show was over.

“I never would have guessed you had that streak of wildness,” he said.

“Yeah, somewhere inside me I’ve got a little craziness going on. But those whippers are really fun!” I said.

Bobbi: “I think it makes you a better climber,  you know you’re safe so you can relax.”

 

Pedaled to work

It’s been sunny so I pedaled to work twice in a row this week. The route is nice because there are sidewalks the entire way. Some of the sidewalks are dirt, but there is at least a raised lip on the pavement, which will hopefully alert a wandering driver that they are leaving the road. Biking to work means you’ve already had your aerobic exercise for the day. Then you get it again on the way home. The route is becoming increasingly familiar as I find all the fastest sidewalks in the 40 minute pedal. Sections that used to seem long now seem easy and short.

I love my old Sekai ten speed. It’s a direct link to my distant childhood. I bought it while I was living in a tent on a farm out in Tenino back in 1972. I had a part time job as a busboy, and another part time job as a printer. Other than my 1967 harmonica…which barely works, that old bike is my oldest possession. Those chromoly frames last forever. It’s been across the Cascades, up Vancouver Island and on many, many dirt roads long before mountain bikes were invented.

I’ve replaced most of the moving parts such as wheels, rear free wheel, rear derailleur, brake lines and countless tires. The frame, handlebars, pedal arms and smaller front sprocket and front derailleur are all original…as is the paint.

V, Alex and Kristi and I all went to Index, Lookout Point last weekend. It’s a great place to get away from the Private Idaho crowds.

 

Leavenworth and filmmaking

I’ve not written in two weeks and it’s getting hard to remember what I’ve been up to. L. and D. were vacationing Alaska and shared some exciting news, but I won’t write about it here, as it’s not my story to tell.

Sue has gotten into making the yard pretty. She’s been digging up dandelions and replanting grass seeds in the holes. I’m glad she likes doing that because yard work is just not my thing.

My niece and nephew met me at my uncles house in Leavenworth for a few days of climbing. John led a hard offwidth on the left side of Jello Tower and got my number 5 stuck. Normally a big cam like that comes out easily because you can get your hands on it. But this one got fixed. Both he and I worked on it and it was not coming out. By the next weekend it was gone. I haven’t stuck a cam in a decade, so I guess I was overdue. Still, I’d rather lose a cam than a nephew. He was in dangerous territory when he slammed that cam into the 4 inch crack, but as soon as he clipped it he was safe.

V. and I went to Private Idaho at Index the weekend before and I got on Istanbul and Battered Sandwich, both 5.9’s. That was a lot of fun.

My uncle had a cold, and now I’ve got it. Since I was resting over this last weekend, I decided to brush up on Adobe Premiere by posting some DIY tutorials on framemaking. I’d filmed the footage back in November, planning to eventually make some videos on the process.

DIY picture framing

There weren’t many good tutorials online about making pictures frames. It seems the good artists and frame makers aren’t into film making. There are some woodworkers posting picture framing videos…but they weren’t using the simple tools I’m using. Most of those guys have $20,000 woodworking shops. I’ve just got a borrowed miter saw and a couple of $80 picture frame clamps. I also cover the measuring, gluing, nailing painting and gold leafing processes.

What I do have is artistic knowledge and creative troubleshooting skills…plus some low level filmmaking skills. I filmed most of the footage with my iphone and or my little point and shoot camera,  mostly because they have autofocus and built in mic’s. I hand held some of the footage…so that should really be reshot…but most of it was done on tripods and is fine.

I put them up as 1080p, so the quality seems quite adequate. I’ve gotten a lot of help from youtube fixing things such as cars and appliances, so it’s nice to be able to give back to the community by posting some of my own tutorials.

How to measure and cut perfect miter corners to the right length:

Clamping, glueing and nailing with Rockler picture frame clamps:

Assembling the final frame pieces into the finished frame.

Applying gesso, handpainting with acrylic paint and adding gold leaf. It’s kind of like making a miniature painting, a painting of a frame, on wood:

Got past the blank canvas

Great 4 day weekend! Saturday started off with replacing the idler pulleys on my truck. It was making a squeaky noise on start up down in Vegas. I drove it 1000 miles all the way home while worrying about a breakdown. I loosened 2 of the belts and removed the idler pulleys. Water pump and air conditioner bearings felt normal. But on the idler pulleys, one clearly had a bad sealed bearing. When I turned it, it felt a little grabby, though still functioning. I had replaced them once before…so I guess they last about 120,000 miles.

None of the shops in town had it in stock, and quotes ranged from $210 to $23. When things get weird like that I drive down to Lloyd and Wilson Auto repair in Tacoma. He can order parts based on the vin number, they come fast, and are always correct. He instantly felt the bad bearing, which validated my concern. I’ve spent a lifetime working on bicycles, printing presses and cars, it’s good to know I can judge a bad bearing.

Sunday V. and drove to Index and climbed at Private Idaho. A crew of 5 with just one leader headed out of the parking lot 10 minutes ahead of us. They were nice, but took 2 hours on every route.

They had the easy routes locked up (Senior Citizens and Turkey) so I jumped on Istanbul, a nine I’d never led. Two fives would come in handy, though it was still safe enough with one. Love to get that one clean, now that I know what’s there. I sent Battered Sandwich cleanly next, as did V. We were each leading everything. I’d thought I was rusty….but getting Battered cleanly is a great indicator.

Monday I drove up to Paradise at 11 and did a hurried painting. Need to bring skis. The lighter load of hiking in boots is not worth the post holing. And I need to load my pallete in the parking lot to save weight. One bottle of water would be plenty. I poured out an entire bottle.

Tuesday I played pingpong from 8 to 11. Jan hadn’t been there in a month. I’ve been improving and she commented: “Jeez, I leave for a month and you go all pro on me!” Or at least I think that was her. It’s nice to hear stuff like that. At my age, it seems like I’m on a constant slide towards mediocrity…so anything that slows that down is welcome news.

After ping pong Lisa came over and we fabricated some sheet metal to mouse proof the other side of her Corolla trunk. It’s nice to hang out with the kids…though working on cars is not my favorite activity.

Put a biner in a figure eight knot

Climbed with Bobbi and Chris J. at 3:30. I tried my new trick of replacing a Yosemite finish with a round locker biner. Todd thought it would be fine. Before I went up I told Bobbi that he could write the accident report if things went badly, but it worked as planned. I took the big whipper, lowered off, pulled the keylock biner out and had a loose knot…sweet!

It’s kind of scary being your own guinea pig. No one online is doing that, or at least writing about it. Those darn knots are so tight after a whipper. I knew there had to be a solution. The biner in the knot is no different than the strand of rope from the Yosemite finish on the figure eight. Well, it’s slightly different because it’s aluminum, instead of rope. I made sure to tie a double grapevine backup knot after the figure eight. I figured that if the eight slipped due to the slipperyness of the biner in the knot, the grapevine would prevent the knot unraveling under load.

But all was well. I took the whip and was able to pull out the biner with minimal effort, which left slack in the knot and it was easy to untie. My next big project is to sew my own cam slings. I plan to do a bunch of load testing before I trust them. I will write about it later.

DIY dryer repair

Our twenty year old Kenmore Series 70 electric dryer stopped heating last night. It would run, but would only blow cold air. I found this dryer repair tutorial on youtube.

I was able to fix it the next day for $60 instead of the $200 it would have likely cost. I could have fixed it for $30 if I’d wanted to wait for shipping. But it gets used every day and we didn’t want to wait.

Danger! Be absolutely sure you disconnect the power from your dryer BEFORE you take it apart.

 

I worked through the steps with my multi-tester and found that the heater element was bad. He explains it better, but the basic idea is that your multimeter has a battery inside it. When you set it to ohms, it sends current through the connection prongs on the heater element. I think he said to look for 9 ohms of resistance? Anyway, this means that the current from the multimeter tries to ‘get through’ the coil of the element but runs into a load…or maybe it’s called resistance. Point is, if it’s good, the current can get all the way through to the other probe, completing the circuit…but with resistance, which is measured in ohms. If you see a zero on your ohm meter, it means the current can’t get through at all…and this means a bad heater element. I took it apart and sure enough, the coil was broken. Looked like a broken spring.

I called a local appliance store and they had a replacement coil in stock. Took me a few hours total time. That was fun work. I like fixing things.

FYI: I am not an electrician. My instructions may be wrong. The youtube guy knows his stuff. I’m just a guy who likes a challenge and frequently gets over his head. I told Sue it might electrocute us when we turned it on if I’d done something wrong. There is 220 volts in there. My saving grace was to take a lot of photos of how the wires were connected as I took it apart. Then I just reversed the process as I put it back together.

The only way I can see this going south is if one of the connectors pulled apart and short circuited to the frame. The push on connectors seem flimsy. I was temped to soder them tight but didn’t.

Phone case for climbing

Many of my partners are leading with iPhones in their pants pocket. Considering what they cost, I shudder when I see them waving them around with abandon, trying to get the best angle. They do this 6 pitches up in the air…which amounts to a 600 foot drop if something goes wrong.

If the route is too hard I will leave my big camera on the ground or in the car. I have a small camera…but we often bring an iPhone for  emergencies…worst case scenarios. And considering how good they are getting, it’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon. But my phone is too big for a pants pocket, and it has a stupid glass back…so it’s fragile.

I already have a metal fronted case, but there is only one bungy snap holding the phone in the case, and the glass side is pressed up against my harness, only protected by the inner plastic case. I considered buying a hardish soft shell case with a zipper, which I have for my point and shoot camera, but I don’t like zippers…hate them with a passion actually. Every zipper is on its way to breaking…it’s only a matter of time.

I wondered if I could make a user repairable, bombproof metal iPhone case.  Yes, it turns out I can.

I started with some concept drawings. I hadn’t really thought it through…but figured if I started working all would become clear. I’m also blocked right now, I wiped off my latest painting…so I needed some entertainment on my four day weekend.

concept drawing

concept drawing

Bending the aluminum was hard because it was wider than my vise. I had to use some 1/4″ iron to extend my vise. I was able to make my right angle bends using this jig and a sledge hammer.

hammering the right angle bend

hammering the right angle bend

partially bent right angle

partially bent right angle

bending jig

bending jig

both angles bent

both angles bent

After that I sewed it together on the bottom with 1/8″ bungy cord. I considered using a hinge, but the bungy cord added cushion and avoided the case having to be overly precise regarding thickness of the phone.

My initial plan was to have the biner seal the case, like the way a binier locks down a grigri. But it turns out that a binier has such a wide bottom that the case is not held closed. I found a way to use a threaded bungy to lock the case closed, supplementing the biner. Getting all that sorted out and debugged took most of a day. Then I showed it to Sue and Clint and they both thought it was stupid…overkill was the term they used. While I think they are right, it was still a fun exercise in the art of inventing. The fact that my invention was mis-guided is irrelevant.

One of the problems I solved in my mis-guided train wreck of an invention was that the 0.040″ aluminum  was too flimsy to make a good carabinier hangar. I glued on a double layer of metal there. This is version 1.0 after all. It’s not supposed to be perfect. I’m thinking I can hang this on my rack or harness next to cams and quick draws and it will be fine.