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Smart Roadster Coupé

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Ten years old but looking very tidy. The Smart Roadster Coupe hard top in Champagne Remix colour scheme. It’s a lot of fun.

Sports cars these days are amazing but ridiculous at the same time. As beautiful as an Aston may be, in the real world it’s just a headache. Too big and hard to see out off in most towns and way to fast for the roads. Maybe some years ago you could have had such a powerful car and actually get to use it but now with speed cameras, mobile radar, average speed cameras, parking restrictions and congestion charges it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Not to mention the envy created in others by owning a car that costs as much as a house.

You could do a track day I suppose but if you had the kind of money that would allow you to buy an Aston why wouldn’t you have a race car instead? Why use just a road car? You can’t use its full potential on the public roads, that would be just foolhardy and could only end in tears. You would be forced to occasional bursts of power when the rare opportunity arose. Personally I couldn’t own such a car and only use its power and performance so liberally. I’d want to push it and if I did, I would either crash or lose my license. Or both.

This is all academic. I can’t afford an Aston and even if I could it’s the last car I’d actually want to own. I would feel too guilty driving it. I would be constantly reminded that I was far better off than 95% of the world and that I clearly don’t care about the environment. I have never cared what other people think but I do care about how I think so I need to have a more realistic and PC approach.

Enter the Smart Roadster. An expensive (for what it was) car when it was launched in 2003. Today prices start at about £2500 which for a car that cost 6 times that just ten years ago is amazing. True to say that a lot of eager initial Roadster buyers lost out when they came to sell.

Mercedes also lost out as they had to pay about £3000 per car in warranty claims to right the leaks on the cars. Not every car was affected but they got a bad reputation that remains to this day. The other criticism is the gearbox which is slow and sometimes annoying.

That said, there is a lot to recommend a Smart Roadster. Now that they can be bought for a much more realistic price, they offer cheapish and fun motoring, the like of which you though you would never see again.

Forget all the problems. This car is just such a laugh to drive and lets face it, if you were interested in practicalities you would not be looking to buy a tiny sports car with only two seats, limited luggage space and a car so low that you run the risk of looking a complete tit as you struggle to get out in and out of it.

There are some things that are important buying a Roadster, one is that it is better to buy a higher mileage version because it means it has been used. If it is being used it suggests that it must be reliable. A full Smart service history is the other essential. If it has always been serviced by Smart, the chances are that any issues have long since been dealt with. The Roadster has a highly tuned engine which needs more care and servicing that most modern cars. It needs an exact type of oil and has 2 spark plugs per cylinder. It is a complicated little car that needs understanding. This is why a Smart dealer service history is so important. Even a Mercedes dealer service history could be suspect. Word is that Mercedes didn’t care for servicing these cars and lacked proper understanding.

I bought my roadster on line from a garage selling left hand drive cars in the UK. The idea was to drive it to the south of France where it will become my everyday transport and weekend toy. It had 60,000 miles on the clock and a full Smart service history. I could tell from the pics that it was a tidy car. The guy at the garage said that everything worked. That is true, despite having heated seats, cruise control, electrically heated and adjustable wing mirrors and gawd knows what else, everything really does work.

Really I think that is quite impressive. No ten year old car that I have ever owned can say the same. Will it prove reliable? There is no way to know although I can say this. I have just completed a 2500 mile trip around the UK and then to the South of France in it and it never missed a beat, as happy on the B roads or in the rain on the motorway.

I may feel different once I have had to replace a few parts but I’m not unrealistic about owning this car. I know it will cost me money. Cars do. But even if it does go wrong and cost me money I frankly don’t care because it is just such fun to drive.

There have been a lot of comments on various forums and articles slagging off the gearbox and because of this a lot of people have been put off owning one. Or perhaps they were looking for a valid excuse not to buy one knowing that as much as they wanted one it was too hard to justify for many reasons so it was better to say that you would have bought one if only the gearbox was better.

The funny thing is that I think the gearbox is a stroke of genius. It’s a clutchless manual 6 speed box that can be an auto as well. The best of both worlds. who wants to be using a clutch in the traffic that we see these days? Not me. I have wanted an automatic car for a long time but they are so drab that until now I have not been able to do that.

The car must be learned. I think it took about 1000 miles of all sorts of driving before I felt I had the measure of the car and the gearbox. You cannot do certain things because the car won’t let you. Fine. All you have to do is learn to drive the car within its limits and when you do you will discover that it enhances the driving experience. It keeps you more focused as you drive.

There are lots of tricks. They say that an engine remap often speeds up the gear change. I tried that but couldn’t notice the gear change being any faster. Still it was worth a try and has made the Roadster even more fun to drive. The adjustment of the clutch actuator is critical. If there is too much play the clutch action takes longer and since the gears cannot change until the clutch has done its thing it slows every thing down.

Using the Auto option also slows the gear change down. At low speeds or in town the gear changes are very smooth and imperceptible it’s just when you take the engine to the redline in every gear that the changes are slow and snatchy. However if you change gear manually you will find that the changes are much faster. If you can get it so that you change just before the redline it helps too.

But what helps the most is letting the car warm up properly before thrashing it. This is good for the turbo in any case but like an old Fiat it just gets better and better the warmer it gets. Once you get the hang of the gear change it is not really so slow at all. I would say it is like a leisurely change gear in a normal car. The reality is that this is quite fast enough for the road. Perhaps on a track you might lose a fraction of a second with every change but what most people fail to point out is that you don’t need to change gear as often as you think.

On the road once rolling you don’t change gear much. The little 700cc turbo engine is remarkably torquey and pulls like a train from 3000 rpm to the 6000 rpm redline which means that blasting down a country lane you are mostly in 4th gear. You can accelerate from 40 to 70 very quickly in the same gear.

The 0-60 time is misleading because it changes gear just a few mph before 60 which spoils an otherwise respectable time. Most decent remaps allow more revs in third gear so that it changes after the car has reached 60mph and this makes a huge difference to 0-60 times, I’m guessing about 8 seconds which is quick enough in the real world. There are a few methods for a faster get away. There is a switch at the bottom of the throttle pedal that speeds up the get away by raising the revs to 3000 before releasing the clutch. There’s also a way of using the ignition key to get the revs up before the clutch is released. It takes some practice to get right but does make the Roadster rocket off like a scalded cat but I doubt it would do the clutch much good.

Unless you’re drag racing the slow gear change is not a problem. On the road, in the real world the Roadster can hold its own against most challengers. This is where the Roadster shines. It has a low centre of gravity and a 45/55 weight distribution and ridiculously wide tyres for such a small and light car so it sticks to road and is beautifully balanced. I read somewhere it can generate almost 1 G which is astonishing.

The problem with the Roadster is not that the gearbox is pants it’s just that you can’t drive this car as it was an ordinary car. You have to rethink what you are doing and drive it as it dictates and then you will understand it’s charms. Sure, sometimes it seems a bit slow or snatchy but I’ll take that over a clutch. 99% of the time the gearbox works just fine so long as you stay within the confines of the system. No doubt this kind of thing disturbs the purists but the fact is cars have been taking over many functions from the driver for years now and no one complains about that. Things like auto choke and ABS for example. In the future, cars will do more and more for us so you might as well get used to it.

The technophobes of this world will always diss a new or different way of doing things. For years now Airplanes have not had mechanical systems to operate the wing flaps. It is all done by wires and servos. Yet planes are more reliable because the Human element has been taken out of the equation. No one doubts this because we still get on a plane and expect to arrive. The Roadster has no throttle cable. It too is ‘fly by wire’ and that seems to scare people. The simple fact is that electronics will rule our lives more and more. For those not afraid of technology the Smart Roadster is a great toy. To those pessimistic technophobes I say; Build a bridge and get over it. Even if it breaks down it’s not the end of the world. RAC membership and a mobile phone will get you home. Not like a plane that simply falls out of the sky.

The steering is direct and it changes direction instantly with no roll. It is only marginally affected by cross winds and passing lorries at speed. I don’t know why the Roadster has power steering but it does and it does make town driving a doddle and since it is speed sensitive you don’t really notice it. The steering wheel needs a fair bit of movement but maybe this just adds to the experience as you have to move the wheel so much. A bit like a kid with a toy car wildly swinging the wheel and making screeching sounds. The only thing that is missing from the Roadster experience is squealing tyres which it just doesn’t do. The standard wheel is quite large but you can fit the Brabus version which is a couple of cm smaller but it’s no prettier than the original wheel. The horn is operated by buttons on each side of the wheel but they are never to hand when you want them. I would prefer that the centre of the wheel operated the horn.

The handling is amazing. It just sticks to the road and seems completely unfussed how you drive. You can change direction mid corner, you can brake or accelerate. It just goes round the corner so easily. Perhaps it’s being so close to the road and since the centre of gravity is so low there’s practically no roll at all. I have not noticed much understeer and the back end seems firmly planted too. My guess is that if you really do push it it will be the back that goes first. I have yet to do much driving in the rain so I can’t really comment on what it will do if you over do it. In theory the ESP will take over the car and sort it out. The system is able to control the throttle, clutch and the brakes. It can even brake individual wheels to help the car back on line.

The ESP can be turned off but in fact it only allows wheelspin, it will still take over if you over cook it. That said despite some fairly spirited driving the warning light has yet to come on indicating that the system is taking over. Sometimes if you go over a bumpy road too fast the light can come on but I was not aware of the car taking over in any way. From what I have read it seems that even when the system operates it is never intrusive. I think the only way to tell is to do a track day and see where the limits are. On the road it is hard to know that.

The brakes are good. They are not sharp and require a fair bit of pressure but the car slows quickly. I tried braking hard from 70mph and it pulled up straight with no drama at all. A tiny bit of intermittent squealing could be heard as the ABS cut in and the car nose dives a little but the way it stops is very impressive. How they will cope on the track I have yet to find out but on the road I have not experienced any fade.

The motor is a fabulous creation. Three cylinders means it sounds like half a Porsche and the turbo waste gate makes a delightful chirruping noise when you change gear. You’re so low to the ground that you really think you’re going faster than you actually are. This is a good thing and is why I would rather have a Smart Roadster to drive than any of the latest Supercars out there. You can drive it like a nutter and still have a good chance of not having your licence taken away. What is maybe even more extraordinary is the fact that over that 2500 mile journey on all sorts of roads I still managed to average an amazing 45 mpg. Considering how much I was thrashing it that is a remarkable figure.

The Interior is a nice place to be. Once you have ‘fallen in’ to the car. It’s all a bit plastic and the switch gear isn’t the smoothest but it’s still cosy and yet spacious. Water leaks into the windows when you lower them as there is no roof gutter. But it’s a sports car. One expects some compromise. The answer is simple. Don’t open the windows when it’s raining! The sun visors are hysterical being tiny and unable to move to the side. Actually they work fairly well but clack back shut noisily. There is very little reflection from the dash and the instruments are easy to read although the speedo over reads but this just makes you think you’re going faster than you are.

The stereo in my car is the CD version by Grundig. It’s not bad. It’s easy to use and the sound is good. What is pants are the speakers so I changed them for some high quality German ones. Not cheap but the sound is excellent and the mounting tabs correctly placed for the Roadster, often people install a normal speaker but cannot screw down all four tabs and this leads to vibrations. The Stereo Koncept speakers come with tweeters which are supposed to be fitted below the speakers in the doors but since my car already had tweeters in the dash below the windscreen, I simply swapped them for the original ones. I also added some tape to the tabs that hold the speaker grills in place to stop them buzzing. The speakers are very small but they have a surprising amount of bass and sound very good. Just loud enough to listen with the top down.

The seats are firm and comfy but I find they lack lumbar support for me. Three hours driving is fine but after that you really fancy a stretch. The seating position doesn’t really work for me. I find that when the wheel is in the right place I can barely touch the pedals so I have to be closer to the wheel than I would like. I also find myself a bit low being a short arse. I raised the seat about ten mm and that has helped enormously. There’s plenty of headroom. The seats grip you well in the corners so you’re not constantly being thrown about by the considerable G this car can produce. The seats have metal backs and protect in the event of an accident which is a comforting thought and they have side airbags in their tops. (at least on my car).

The passenger seat folds down but the driver’s one doesn’t. The driver’s seat can be reclined but the passenger’s is fixed. Getting the passenger seat to fold is a two handed operation but that is because the seat has to be massively strong and needs two clips to lock it in position. I dare say Smart could have made a single lever system but the seat is not often folded so it’s no big deal.

Visibility is good considering although it’s impossible (for me) to see the front nearside of the car. The rear screen has no wiper but then it doesn’t need it as it just doesn’t get wet or dirty. The windscreen washers have 4 nozzles and do a great job of washing the windscreen. Side mirrors are electrically operated on my car and that can be helpful when reversing against a curb.

Air conditioning works well as does the heater and heated seats (ridiculous) but since my car has them, maybe one day I will be grateful for them. I used the aircon almost all the way on the last 2500 mile journey in the UK and France in July. It was hot and I was glad of it. Basically the car works just fine and most people when sitting in it for the first time are surprised at the space and the coolness of the interior.

What surprises most people is just how quiet and smooth the car is on the road. My car has 15” wheels which must help a lot. I can’t imagine what the 17” Brabus rims are like. Must be horrible. The Roadster handles bumps and potholes as well as you could expect for such a low slung and sporty little car. What surprised me most was the mellow way it deals with speed bumps. That is a helpful trait for any modern car what with so many speed bumps about. Passengers always comment on how quiet and smooth the car is. I guess having the engine behind helps to keep the noise behind you.

On the motorway the Roadster works brilliantly. My car has cruise control which is essential if you do a lot of motorway driving. I find that the throttle pedal is not well placed for me and if I didn’t have the Cruise Control I suspect that my foot would ache after a while. There is a fair bit of wind noise at 80mph but it’s not terrible. A strip of insulation tape along the front edge of the hard top cuts down the noise dramatically. But the Roadster is not a motorway car and any excuse to get off and find a B road is welcome.

There is a boot at the front that is quite commodious and for the overspill there’s always the rear boot which is 180 litres. The only down side is that it ruins your rear vision. The hard top stows in the back too so that cuts down the space you can use. That said this is a surprisingly practical car which can carry a lot of stuff considering its size. The power steering and auto box make town or traffic far more tolerable.

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A great looking little car. The wheel base is the same as a Porsche 911. These are the 15” standard wheels.

My car has the hard top roof only. It takes a couple of minutes to remove or replace. It’s very easy. It is a joy to drive with the roof off. It really transforms the car. For a start you can’t hear the creaking from the roof panels as the chassis flexes slightly. It’s so nice to have that open air right above your head and it is very nice to be able to thank other drivers by raising your hand out of the roof. Although you will not be popular with your passenger especially if she has long hair as the wind does buffet around in the cabin although it’s not too bad. There are two small plastic ridges on the top of the windscreen surround which may be there to cut down on wind noise or deflect air away. I can’t think what else they could be.

The outside of the Smart Roadster is clever too. All the panels are replaceable and made of plastic. So you could have two sets of panels and change the car’s colour in a couple of hours. One of the best things about plastic panels, apart from the obvious lack of rust is that they do not dent like metal. My last car was perfect except for a line of small dents down each side where people had been opening their doors on it in car parks. The Roadster might get the paint chipped but the door won’t dent!

The roof hinges are far too large and the paint flakes off them. I don’t know why they are so big. In my opinion they spoil the looks somewhat. The door handles work well and the doors open and shut easily and with a nice noise. Maybe they shut too easily and can get slammed by people used to much heavier doors. The electric windows are fast, quiet and smooth and although I prefer the switch on the door it’s not terribly hard to reach to the centre consul to operate them. Most of the switch gear is within easy reach.

Parts are available from a number of places and don’t seem too badly priced. I think the secret with the Roadster is careful and preventive servicing and maintenance. Only time will tell how reliable the car is and how often it needs parts such as clutches, brake pads etc.

There are also a lot of good sites with how to articles about all the aspects of the Roadster and that really is very helpful. When these cars came out they had a dedicated and keen following. Loads of companies offer tuning parts and wheels for the roadster. You can even buy doors that lift up when you open them just like a Lambo. The question is not what do you want to do to your Roadster buy how much you want to spend.

You can even buy active woofers that fit in the passenger foot well. The look a bit bulky and must surely take up some legroom but with the seat right back, there’s plenty spare. You can get chrome trims for the instruments and lowered suspension and uprated brakes. Quite a few companies make exhausts too. The one I keep coming back to is the Janspeed Stealth. Just like the original exhaust, you cannot see it’s exit hidden as it is behind the rear valance. The Brabus versions have a central exit that requires a new section of the valance.

The roadster looks great to me with it’s bulging arches and smiling face but some don’t like it at all. It’s true, the back end isn’t the prettiest and a centre exit exhaust doesn’t even help. In my opinion, the less you draw attention to the back end the better. The first cars had sections of dark grey plastic for the headlights and a part of the rear valance. I guess in a way to reduce visually the large area of paint. Some owners colour code these parts but I think it makes the car look a bit cheesy. Although the dark plastic bits aren’t too pretty they offer a good contrast to the paint. Despite that the Roadster is eye catching and unlike anything on the road today. It offers a welcome antidote to the majority of modern cars which are hard to tell apart.

It’s amazing how many looks the car gets. Kids love it especially and it’s always a treat to see another on the road. There are not many cars left that always flash and wave when they see another one the same. Just the other day I stopped alongside a Portuguese Roadster exactly like mine. The guy was so surprised. He was touring Europe with his girlfriend and having a great time. There are not many Roadsters on the road but if you keep your eyes open they are around.

There are problems with the car being so low is that it seems less visible to other road users. Or maybe they see a car and assume it’s as big as a ‘normal’ car and thus further away than they think. But I think it’s the fact that it has a very angled and small frontal area that’s just hard to see unless you’re looking and sadly today not everyone does look. However with good brakes and quick steering you should be able to stay out of trouble no matter what everyone else does.

There is also a cheeky aspect to the roadster, with the roof off, windows down you can change lanes and nip in front of people without upsetting them, a hand waved through the roof in thanks is all that is needed. No one has hooted me yet! Though I have been flashed at when overtaking sometimes. The car coming the other way just doesn’t realise how quick you can overtake and over reacts.

My conclusion is this: Who cares about all these details really? The one question you need to ask yourself is do you want to have fun when you drive? Do you want to enjoy the journey or do you just want to arrive? The Roadster is not for everyone but for those who want to let their hair down and simply have a laugh without losing their license or spending too much would be wise to consider the Smart Roadster.

The Smart Roadster has competitors. There’s the Mazda MX5 and the Toyota MR2 to name but two. Now I haven’t driven either of these and I’m sure they are excellent cars which are super reliable and quick enough to excite but I’ll bet they won’t make you smile as much as the Smart Roadster will. It’s not for everyone but if you want to have a laugh for not much money then test drive one. Bear in mind what I said about learning the car before you judge too soon.

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Update: After 10,000 kms

The roadster has yet to let me down but it did develop some faults. The first problem was a slipping clutch. It came suddenly so I suspected the actuator. My local friendly Smart garage greased it up and adjusted it, first by pulling the actuator towards the clutch using a special spring balance. Then the actuator is fixed in that position. Then the car must be attached to a computer which then adjusts it. This seemed to help.

Then on a long journey the car would accelerate in a weird way and the turbo boost gauge was not steady. Some quick research on the Internet and it soon became clear that the Turbo was knackered or the manifold was cracked or both. In any case the solution was a new turbo. It comes ready assembled on the manifold. Prices vary but I got one for about £400 which isn’t bad really. The Turbo is so cute, smaller than a donut with tiny little vanes. It seems impossible that so small a fan could boost the power on this little engine.

So while the Turbo was being replaced I also serviced the engine, changed the gearbox oil, replaced the two belts and even a broken front engine mount and the entire sump. Many roadsters have rusty sumps which can start to leak. I bought a plastic replacement which even has a drain plug, something the standard Roadster doesn’t have. Oil is extracted via the dipstick, a poor and inefficient way of doing things. I also replaced the aging actuator with a new one.

At first the car felt a bit underpowered and the boost was not rising above 1 bar. I thought for a while that the remap had been overwritten by the garage when they reset the gearbox and the actuator. Not so, after a few more miles the boost started to climb and now tops out at just under 1.5 bar. It never managed that before so I guess that the Turbo was getting tired even when I bought the car. No worries, now the Turbo is new it should last a few years.

Then the clutch started slipping again. One of the reasons for changing the actuator was so that if the clutch still slipped it would rule that out once and for all. A slipping clutch could only mean one thing, a worn clutch that needs replacing. So I ordered a clutch and release bearing and while I was at it, a new oil seal for the crank. It can leak and cause a slipping clutch though my Smart man thinks it unlikely. In any case since I ordered the clutch (about £250) the current one is working just fine again. In fact the car has never driven better. It is up on power, the gear changes are crisp and the throttle response excellent so for now the new clutch will stay in its box until needed.

Then today I booked the car in for an MOT and driving away the handbrake button popped out of the handbrake so the handbrake no longer locks. Most annoying. Here’s a fault I had not yet read about. In order to remove the handbrake it is first necessary to remove the carpet. In order to remove the carpet, you must first remove the stereo to get access to the bolts that hold the facia in place. Remove the seats (first disconnecting the battery because of risk of explosion from side air bags) and the gearlever, shaft and tunnel. It seems like a ridiculous amount of work just to remove the handbrake but actually it wasn’t too bad at all. I don’t suppose it took an hour and this was the first time I did this so I can only get faster. Having the carpet out was the perfect opportunity to wash and scrub it as it was not smelling so nice. Maybe from a leak that was since fixed. The car was immaculate under the carpet however.

The problem, and here is a classic example of why Smart failed with the Roadster. The ratchet that holds the handbrake is connected to a plastic arm with a hollow in it to catch the rounded top of the ratchet piece. Being plastic and poorly designed and engineered, it was only a matter of time before this happened. To have done a proper job with this piece might only have cost a few pence more but Smart decided to go with plastic and for moving parts it’s a poor idea.

Unfortunately the handbrake is not only hard to remove because of the aforementioned other dismantling that has to take part first but it is also NOT designed to come apart being riveted together. It is pretty nasty. I could buy a new handbrake for £100 but have decided to repair it by adding metal to the plastic to reinforce it. That way it will not happen again. Amazing really when you consider how much work it is to remove the handbrake why they used such shitty plastic that was bound to break one day.

So that is where I am today, with the car in pieces, seats out and handbrake in pieces. But I am not disheartened. The Roadster is such a clever car in so many ways that despite the failures here is a car which can go on forever because the plastic panels don’t rust and the Tridion chassis is very well painted and protected by plastic. Unless you prang the car it could go on for decades slowly replacing all the mechanical parts as they fail. In the future the Roadster would make a perfect donor car for an electric vehicle. Yes the car has cost me money but it has not stranded me and the pieces I have replaced are things that would need replacing one day anyway. So, until the next exciting episode. What will break next I wonder?

 

Update Nov 2013

A very amusing day was spent at a local race track. Most of the cars were Lotus and Porsche and I am pleased to report that the Roadster was not the slowest car by any means. The single seat racing cars were doing a circuit in about one minute. The Roadster managed a respectable 1.12. It scores well in the tight corners and corners which change direction quickly. It also scores on stopping, being able to brake ridiculously late.

It was let down by two things, one being the lack of outright acceleration although to some degree this was mitigated by not really needing to brake in the first place! The second thing that was a bit frustrating were some of the gearbox ratios. There were a couple of corners that required third gear but at the exit the revs just passed 6000 rpm so the gearbox would change into 4th when it should just stay in third. It was only a matter of a few hundred revs but enough that I had to back off the revs slightly so that it didn’t change. This happened again at the next set of bends where I needed forth but if I didn’t pay attention it would change to 5th and mess up the next set of bends. That said, this is true of any car on a track, gearbox ratios will often to finely tuned for particular circuits and corners. It’s a minor gripe but made more noticeable because of the Roadster’s gearbox.

What I did discover is that the Smart Roadster is a fantastically well balanced sports car with an astonishing level of grip and a very forgiving stance even on the limit. I found that even with the tyres screaming their protest it was still possible to change direction, exaggerate a slide or reduce it just but playing with the steering. Many sports cars rely on throttle response to change the car’s attitude in a bend. Not so the Roadster. It doesn’t have the power for this so it’s just as well that the basic chassis is so well set up and allows you to do this. I was very impressed.

I was surprised at how far I could push the car. The tyres, which never squeal on the road were quite vocal on the track. It might have been something to do with the surface which certainly seemed considerably more grippy than your average road surface. Maybe it’s the surface itself, or maybe just the rubber that has been laid down over the years or maybe it was the fact that I was driving it like a maniac.

I tried many different styles of driving to get the best lap time and the fastest was achieved by driving like a lunatic with tyres complaining on corners and ABS cutting in under heavy braking but it doesn’t seem very skilful so I tried a more elegant approach but times dropped by a couple of seconds. Most interesting.

The ESP was turned off and this allowed me to do 4 wheel drifts through corners. On the occasions that I forgot to turn it off I did notice it take over the throttle and stop the drift and in doing so slowed the car down enough to ruin a good lap time.

Under braking the car is so balanced and composed. I was in company with a French guy with a Lotus Exige who was about 6 seconds a lap faster than me and he was surprised how late I was braking at the end of the straight. From 100 mph to 30 mph in no time at all. He was braking before the 100 metre mark and I was braking well after it. Now, how much this has to do with the fact that although I was doing 100 mph at the end of the straight, he must have been doing considerably more so perhaps it is normal that he had to brake earlier than me. What I do know is that many of the slightly faster cars all used the hard right hander at the end of the straight to pass but with such late braking they were frustrated every time.

What surprised me most was that my lap time was about the same as the bulk of the Elises. I would catch them in the bends and they would catch me on the straights. The cars were well matched. In the end I let them go so as not to slow them down but would always catch them up again and they would let me go past. This alone is quite amazing that a car with just a 700 cc engine is able to hold its head high against some of the best sports cars in the world is very impressive. Remember also that apart from a remap, my Roadster has completely standard suspension, brakes, wheels and tyres while most of the Lotus have upgraded everything including special soft tyres.

What I have realised from this track day is this. If you want to have a laugh on the track for not very much money you would be hard put to do better than buy a Smart Roadster. Lots of other drivers commented on the handling of the Roadster and were surprised at how quick it was.

Just a couple of hours driving round a small track with quite tight bends took its toll on the tyres and they were all beaded up and torn although not as badly as some of the other cars I saw. It is a light car and so well balanced that although the tyres wear it’s not too bad. In any case brakes and tyres are bound to wear at a much higher rate on the track and of course this needs to be costed in. Track days are expensive all in all. The actual track only costs a couple of quid a lap but the wear and tear on the car, brakes and tyres will probably double or triple that figure.

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The result of over cooking it. The car ended up beached a surprisingly long way from the track.

Then there is also the chance of damaging the car, the paintwork and the windscreen. And of course if you push too hard and and end in the gravel traps then the wheels and lower bodywork will take a beating. That’s what happened on my second outing after about 15 laps. For no reason at all I lost it after a corner and I don’t know why. Probably the simplest solution is that I was going too fast but it didn’t happen again. It remains a bit of a mystery really but it does prove that it is definitely possible to spin a Roadster even with the ESP which never turns itself off completely.

The track day was a useful experience which has given me so much confidence in the car and its handling. There is no way you could drive like that on the road but it’s nice to know that even at good speeds the Roadster is well planted, offers excellent grip and handling. Powerful brakes that are undaunted by uneven surfaces. It does nice 4 wheel drifts and if you over cook it that turns to understeer and then if you really over do it, oversteer.

All I need to do now is polish out the marks made by the gravel in the bodywork and see if the wheels will polish up. If not, they’ll need to be resprayed. If I was going to do this more often I suppose the best would be to get another set of wheels and put racing slicks on them and change them at the track. Of course then the suspension and brakes would need upgrading. Then I’d probably start thinking it would be nice to have a bit more power. I think the standard Roadster is brilliant and can be used with much effect even completely standard.

Categories
Leica m9

Why I won’t be buying a Leica M/M10/type 240

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It’s hard to believe that’s it’s coming up 4 years since I have had my M9 but time flies and now Leica have brought out the M9’s successor, the M or as most people are calling it, the M type 240 or even the M10. It’s all a bit confusing. Leica always go their own way and I’m glad they do or the M9 would never have been made! However I do feel like they have shot themselves in the foot by simply calling it the M. It’s never easy to understand the thinking behind these things but you can be sure of one thing, if Leica chose it there will be a good reason behind it.

The name thing could turn out to be a very clever move. Consider this: The M 240 is surely the last evolution of the M3 which first came out in the 1950s because there is no where else to go with it. The screen is as big as it can be. The viewfinder now has led frame lines. Any big changes they make will turn the M into something else. So with this in mind Leica can upgrade the M 240 without needing to introduce a new model in the future. The sensor could be upgraded and with firmware updates the M 240 can be kept fully modern. If this is the case, I like it. We live in such a disposable world these days that it is a nice thought that one could buy the M 240 and keep it for decades while never losing out on the latest technology.

When the M 240 was first mentioned I was excited. It sounded perfect. Like Leica had taken all the things that annoyed M9 owners and fixed the lot but I suspect I was just being swept along by the positive reviews and comments. Unlike many others I quite liked the idea of being able to do video and to use R lenses but now that the novelty has worn off I am not so sure.

To work out whether or not I was being objective I went back to the reason why I love my M9. I love it because it is full frame and compact. The M 240 is 10% bigger and 10% heavier. That might not sound a lot but I consider the M9 to be at the limit of what constitutes a light and compact camera so that extra 10% in size and weight will be noticed by me. It is a real shame that Leica have not tried to reduce the size of the M 240. Every evolution of the M seems to be bigger than the last. Just hold an M6 in your hands and then handle an M 240 and you will realise just how much bigger and heavier the Ms are getting.

My original idea was to buy an M 240 and put the 21mm 3.4 on it. That way I can use the extra ISO ability to compensate for the lenses lack of speed. I would keep the 50mm 1.4 lux for the M9. I wouldn’t have to change lenses and that would keep dust off the sensor. But the reality is that I would never use my M9 again as my most used lens is the 21mm. So if I wanted two lenses I’d have to carry two bodies. That’s just silly. For me, the whole point of an M camera is that it is compact enough to be carried on my person at all times. (here’s how I carry my M9) I have another small pouch that carries one lens and it goes on the same belt as the camera.

All this talk of high ISO seems to me to be rather pointless. How quickly we have all forgotten how we would be happy with a film of 100 ASA with no chance to change it yet now even the M9 can take perfectly good pictures at 1000 ISO, already three stops better than we were used to. But the bottom line is that photography is about light. If the light is so poor that you need 3200 ISO then chances of getting a good picture are slim anyway. Maybe many use the extra ISO to allow a faster shutter speed but that has rarely bothered me with an M camera as a steady hand can easily allow shots taken at 1/15”. What I am saying is that I think the extra ISO is overrated and not reason enough to buy the M 240.

The new M is weatherproof. Well, from what I have experienced and heard from others the M9 had no problem being outdoors in the wet (within reason obviously) and after all Leica have long said that their cameras will work in any conceivable situation that you find yourself in so a bit of dampness has never been a problem and it is rare that I find myself taking pictures in the rain so again, this is something that is nice to know but has yet to be a problem for me with the M9.

The video option is certainly intriguing but again reality steps in. For much much less than a M 240 and lenses there are a lot of purpose built cameras that can do much better than the Leica. Many of which have image stabilisation and other clever features like zooms. Of course one could use the R adapter and use it to make video but for that kind of money it would be possible to buy some really choice video equipment.

The R adapter is another feature that seems helpful but that would mean having the lenses in the first place or buying them if you don’t. More expense and for me, the simpler the camera and the fewer the lenses the better. Anything that stops you taking pictures should be avoided.

This brings me on to one of the main reasons why I won’t be buying an M 240. It takes almost two seconds to boot up. This is ridiculous. The M9 boots up in a flash and can take pics almost immediately. If you want to miss the moment get a camera that doesn’t boot up immediately. I know because the Digiliux 2 I had was the same and it was extremely annoying. For this kind of money this is very poor.

Then there’s the max shutter speed of just 60 seconds. This is useless. Even the M9 can manage 4 minutes and often that is not enough either but it’s a lot better than 60 seconds. I love taking long exposures at night so with the M 240 I won’t be able to. Like the time it takes to boot up, it’s another situation where the M 240 has gone backwards.

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With a maximum 60 second exposure time, shots like this with lines made by the movement of the stars will no longer be possible.

Personally I care nothing for the bigger screen or live view. These are just toys which distract you from taking pictures. With decades of practice I can focus an M while another photographer is still deciding what kind of auto focus would be best for the situation. If Leica removed the screen and the menu I would be quite pleased especially if it meant they could reduce the size and weight back down to M6 levels. (here’s an article about a Leica M with simple features and if the comments are anything to go by, I’m certainly not alone in liking this idea.

Everyone is going on about the new menu. Well I never had any problem with the old one. I mostly set the camera once and never touch it again. I used to use the profiles when I first got the M9 and was forever using the wrong profile. It’s just too easy to forget to return the settings after use so an improved menu is of no gain to me.

More battery capacity? This has never been an issue for me in the past and if I thought I might be taking hundreds of pictures I could just take along a spare battery. And that leads me on to yet another reason why I won’t be buying an M 240. Yet another set of batteries, cables and chargers!!! ( Here’s a suggestion for an emergency battery on the M9)

And lastly, I really don’t like the look of the M 240. I love the way the M9 is cut away at the outside by the viewfinder, although it doesn’t reduce the dimensions particularly it does make the camera look better balanced and smaller. The new M 240 is not as good looking as the M9 and the new bigger central red dot is just showing off.

Now I don’t know about you lot but I wouldn’t consider that I take a lot of pictures, maybe 4000 shots a year but even that makes for a hell of a lot of storage. To keep back ups and back ups of back ups means a lot of hard drives. Even bigger files means even more storage issues. I have managed to make amazing prints over a metre wide from the M9 so there is really no need for anything bigger. I tend not to crop so there’s little advantage for me with bigger files. 

Conclusion

Although the M 240 has bigger files and higher ISOs it is bigger and heavier, takes longer to boot up and can only manage a 60 second exposure. The screen is bigger and it costs more. The M9 was a fantastic camera when it was launched and it remains capable of taking amazing images. It is a classic. I’m not convinced that the M 240 offers big enough improvements over the M9 to justify buying one. Sorry Leica but here’s one Leica fan that won’t be buying your latest offering.

Categories
boats

Rheinstrom Y3 Aluminium Toilet review

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The Rheinstrom Y3. The lever makes pumping very easy and keeps the shaft straight minimising seal wear.

Normally I wouldn’t write about a boat toilet but when I tried to research this toilet I could find no reviews or any comments of any kind. This is very strange because Rheinstrom obviously make a very nice product and they have been doing so for over 50 years. No company that lasts that long can be selling rubbish. Then consider that Rheinstrom is a German company and it looks like being a quality bit of kit.

The toilet on Doolittle was a Grocco HF. It is certainly a better toilet than most of the offerings on the market today and a new one will set you back about 600€ and because it is made in America it’s not the easiest toilet to service and get bits for. It has a bronze base which is something but it is let down by the plastic pump assembly which either breaks or becomes unreliable and needs constant attention. To be fair it has done ok. It coped for eight years of two people living aboard.

I almost missed Rheinstrom during my research for a better toilet than I already had. At first glance these toilets don’t look pretty having a very functional and practical look. However in place it is a great improvement over the Grocco. There is something about solid trustworthy well considered engineering. That in itself is enough to make such a mundane object almost attractive.

There’s a lot to like about the Y3. The pump can be fitted on either side which could be helpful if you were left handed or short on space. The entire toilet (apart from the bowl) is made from metal. They do two versions of the same toilet, a bronze one and an aluminium one. The alloy version is half the weight of the bronze one at 8 kilos it’s surprisingly light.

It’s made from high quality aluminium and then deeply coated with an easy to clean protective hard white plastic finish. It’s been very well considered and is very nicely engineered. Unlike the Grocco which needs a whole host of screwdrivers and different sized spanners to dismantle, the Y3 uses the same size stainless Allen key for most of its fastenings.

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Quality castings. I like way it is possible to remove the pump without disturbing the big outlet. Stainless Allen key heads for most of the fastenings keep things simple.

The pump action is very smooth. It has a relatively short stroke but a wide pump body. Even the main base piece has a large internal diameter making this a hard toilet to block. Not only that but it should not need such regular servicing as the Grocco did as it has been designed to minimise wear in all areas. The piston pump rod has a machined guide to keep the rod from wearing the top seal. To help this, the pump uses a lever rather than a handle connected directly to the rod as most toilets do.

Even the dry/flush lever on the side has been well thought out. It is made from a cast piece of stainless and is very elegant but the sealing system is very thorough and a vast improvement on the Grocco which often leaked at this spot. The required O ring is NOT supplied in the toilet rebuild kit which is ridiculous. I called Grocco and they told me to just go to the nearest hardware shop and buy one, they only cost pennies. Well, if they only cost pennies, WHY DON’T YOU SUPPLY ONE IN YOUR REBUILD KIT?

Despite the short stroke, the toilet requires less pumps than the Grocco. The Y3 requires 7 full pumps for every one metre of piping. The Y3 is available with two bowl sizes, small and large. I chose the small version which is about the same size as the Grocco one. One of the things that was good about the Grocco was its small size. The head in Doolittle is not massive and I didn’t want to fit a large toilet and the small Y3 is not much bigger than the Grocco so it fits in very nicely. I was even able to get it to sit a bit further back too so actually there is more space in the head than before.

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The Y3 in place on ‘Doolittle’ Of course the mounting holes were different and the aft outboard coach screw needed cutting down a bit but otherwise it was a straightforward swap. None of the hoses needed moving or cutting.

The toilet lid is a standard plastic covered MDF affair with plastic hinges. It’s not beautiful but neither is it offensive. It is at least easy to clean. If the Y3 has one failing it’s that it’s not going to be the easiest toilet to clean with all those bits and pieces on it. I also question the wisdom of using Allen key heads because they can fill with liquid. Maybe it is possible to get plastic caps for them. But these are issues that might be applied to almost any toilet with a pump.

I bought a rebuild kit which cost about 80€ which is expensive but even the seals and O rings are of excellent quality. It’s not much more than most other kits from other toilet manufacturers. The toilet itself cost about 800€ which is a lot but it is a good product and if you want quality then you usually have to pay for it.

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Update 26/12/2013

Sometimes looks can be deceptive. The quality engineering and well thought out design that I saw in the Y3 when I first installed it has now been seen for what it is. Basically the toilet is well designed but it is let down by some details that render the toilet unusable and worse than that the company are as useless as a chocolate fireguard. They either do not understand what I am trying to tell them or they do not care. Either scenario is not good.

Soon after I got the toilet the dry/flush lever would spring back and the toilet would lock. The only way to flush to toilet was to hold the lever down with one hand while pumping with the other. You can imagine that this soon got so boring I decided to take the thing apart and try and improve it.

It looks pretty simple inside although there seems to be no actual mechanism that ‘locks’ the dry/flush in place. It seems that it is only the friction of the lever that stops it moving but this is a piss poor system. On the Grocco, there was a cam that pressed against the valve when flushing dry. It was crude and the action was rough but it never caused the toilet to not flush.

The lever on the Y3 needs to be held in place with loctite, hardly a clever engineering solution really. Well, in the end I did manage to get the toilet to work with one hand by tightening up the dry/flush lever but this made it rather stiff. This worked for a while but then it started leaking by the lever.

So I took it apart again. Or tried to. In the time since I last dismantled it the bolts had all seized. Well, no surprise really since they are stainless bolts in aluminium. Clearly Rheinstrom do not bother to put any kind of anti corrosive paste or any other kind of system. This is pretty poor really since a mix of metals like this will corrode in no time unless treated. I read on a forum that one poor sod had a problem after five years and by then the bolts had completely seized to the point that he had to throw the toilet away.

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This should be one piece, not two. Too flimsy to last.

In taking it apart the bronze part that operates the valve in the dry/flush lever broke. So that was helpful. NOT. Fortunately I had a spare so I fitted it but the toilet would not work afterwards. I inspected the shape compared to the old one and they were similar but not the same. So some bending helped but the old problem was back. The lever would not hold in the ‘dry’ position and required two hands to flush again.

So I took it apart AGAIN. In the end I came to the conclusion that the casting that the bronze piece goes through was not the right shape and was stopping the lever from going far enough. So I had to damage the powdercoat paint to do this so no doubt it will corrode even faster now. However I did manage to get the toilet working better but it does beg the question, why the **** don’t Rheinstrom do this, or at least test their toilets before sending them out? It should not be the customers job to modify a new toilet because it has been badly machined.

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The reason why the dry/flush lever won’t stay put is because it is not able to move enough. I had to file away a load of metal by the pointy bit so that the other end would lie in the correct position

There’s more bad news I’m afraid. Every few weeks the lever starts to rust and leaves rust stains all over the toilet pump. It is not the easiest toilet to clean so this is really annoying. It probably has something to do with the fact that the lever is not polished and has a rough finish.

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Big bubble of paint in the base, just under where the bowl fits.

Then there’s the bubbling paint in the bottom of the base where the bowl attaches. Two nice big bubbles of paint where it has come unstuck from the alloy. This is just one year. Not good enough. So I started to have a look around and guess what? Yep, you guessed it, paint is bubbling up all over the place. Now I should mention that we shower in the head and that means that the toilet is soaked in fresh water a few times a week so should not corrode as there is no salt water anywhere near it (except inside it) and it even gets a chamois down as well. The toilet is well cared for and maintained. There is no reason for the paint to be bubbling already. That’s just rubbish.

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Loads of paint flaking off. I believe it is because of careless casting preparation. If they just rounds the sharp edges a little before coating…This corrosion looks like it was already under the paint before it flaked off.

Yes, there’s more. Apart from the fact that the spares kit only contains one O ring for the dry/flush lever and considering the size and cost it just seems extremely stingy to not throw in a few. The larger O rings for the pump body itself are too big an make fitting the pump almost impossible. This is just bad engineering pure and simple.

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O rings should not be a loose fit in the groove. This makes refitting the pump almost impossible without damaging the O ring. Just not good enough.

So although the Rheinstrom Y3 aluminium looked promising to start with it has been nothing but trouble and a great disappointment. Considering that it cost almost 1000€ it’s nothing short of disgraceful. A Jabsco for a third of the price would give less trouble than this.

I have written to Rheinstrom many times but their response is always very tardy and pointless, asking questions like ‘is my toilet installed under the waterline’ as if that is the reason why the dry/flush lever won’t stay in place! Really. If you want my advice, steer well clear. These toilets are rubbish. They look great, seem well engineered but are let down but poor details, bad finish and a complete lack of understanding from the manufacturers. I asked them many times to explain to me how the dry/flush lever was supposed to work because I couldn’t make any sense of it but they would always avoid answering me suggesting they don’t even understand it. Not good.

Conclusion:

Hard to clean, goes rusty, paint bubbles off, dry/flush lever won’t stay down on its own and needs two hands to flush toilet, bolts not fitted with any sort of anti corrosive paste, internals needed filing down and parts adjusted to get it to work. O rings in spares kit wrong size. Overpriced. Terrible after sales service.

On the plus side it has not yet blocked.

Update 24/3/14

Finally got a reply from Rheinstrom. Bless them. They seem to want to help which is kind of surprising considering what a complete pain in the arse I have made myself to them. Here’s the story so far.

They decided to send me a Y2 bronze pump in the interim so that we at least had a toilet that was working. This was very nice of them although the inlet pipes are a larger diameter so I had to buy new hoses and faff about for a few hours fitting it. Pleased on the one hand that they are trying to help but pissed off on the other because here I am taking this fecking toilet apart. Again.

Anyway. The new Y2 pump in and for a while we had a nice toilet. They dry/flush lever is a far better design with a cam so that it holds the lever properly. The Y3 should have had a system like this. Much better. It also flushed well.

However. You knew that was coming didn’t you? The machined finish on the pump shaft is very rough and the noise the pump makes as the shaft rubs on the seal is really quite something. Now some might say that this isn’t really a problem and it’s true, if this was all that was wrong I might live with it. After all it should be much better in six months or so as the shaft polishes up. In the meantime we have to put up with a very noisy toilet and no doubt a seal that will wear prematurely. But I don’t really care about any of this. It’s a temporary pump until I get mine back. I mention it only because it is a good demonstration of shoddy quality control.

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Extraordinary. This Y2 model has been installed successfully in boats for over 25 years yet look at this. After just two months of use the lever arm handle is cutting through the brass sleeves and making this mess. This is just one day’s dust. Play is getting worse.

The next thing that happened is that the lever arm started to get some play in it and now is laying down brass dust on top of the pump on a daily basis. Now this toilet is only two months old. There are only two of us and neither have bladder issues so it’s not like it gets a hiding. It gets used that’s all so it’s surprising to see this kind of thing so soon.

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Well, now I understand the problem. This thin walled stainless handle is cutting into the bolts. See below. This is poor engineering.

On inspection I found the problem. Despite Rheinstrom telling me that the Y2 has been in production for 25 years without any problems here is a problem that smacks of yet more dodgy quality control. I think I know what has happened. No doubt it wasn’t that long ago that Rheinstrom did make really good bogs but over the years some materials have changed and perhaps they had not properly considered the implications. Clearly the people who assemble the toilets are not engineers. Any engineer worth his salt would have brought an issue like this to his boss’s attention rather than risk it going out the door with a faulty design.

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Here is one of the brass sleeves. As you can see the lever arm has been chomping away at the soft brass. It’s a ridiculous design. If I sold a toilet with such a poor system I would die of shame. The long length of the lever arm makes this system even more hopeless.

The brass bushings in the lever arm are a classic case in point. It all looks proper, nice stainless bolts into a brass sleeve to act as a bearing. Great. But then what do they do? They fit a stainless tube lever arm with such thin walls that they soon cut into the soft brass making shavings and introducing play which will only get worse with time. This is just piss poor. I don’t really know how else to describe it other than that. I’m not a trained engineer but even I know that’s not going to work. The mad thing is, so do Rheinstrom. The Y3 does not have this problem because it uses plastic inserts in the lever arm which have sufficient bearing surface to actually work.

Soon after the toilet became hard to flush and the water would come back into the bowl. I soon found the problem when I found the weight that normally lives on the bottom seal in the bottom of the bowl! The weight is riveted on so either it corroded away, broke or was not done properly in the first place. Yet another demonstration of poor quality control. Of course I had a spare but I had to take the toilet apart yet again!!!!

So what are Rheinstrom doing? Well apparently they have redesigned the dry/flush lever so it stays in place and have addressed the issue of the undersized O ring on the lever as well. I am still waiting to see what they have come up with. To this day, despite asking repeatedly no one will tell me how the lever was supposed to work, nor what they have done to make it work. Have they done this only for me? Or did they realise the design was flawed and are doing something about it? Who knows, they just won’t tell me.

So this is not the end of the saga. At least Rheinstrom are trying and I am grateful for that but I do hate being treated like a moaning idiot when what I see is iffy design and shoddy quality control that needs addressing. I have spent enough of my valuable time taking this bloody toilet apart so I for one will be more than happy to have a working Y3 again. And if that doesn’t work I’ll have to ask for my money back and get a Jabsco like everyone else. They might be cheap and plasticy but they work and spares are easy to find and change. There’s little wonder it’s one of the most popular boat bogs in Europe.

 

Update 10/6/2014

First I have to applaud Rheinstrom for sending me yet another new toilet even if it was the wrong one. Yes, once again they have proved they do not care or are incompetent. Or both. My toilet was aluminium and they knew this yet they have sent me a bronze toilet which is twice the weight.

I took the toilet apart keen to see what modifications they had made and was not really surprised to see that they had done practically nothing. The bronze part of the dry flush lever had one edge very slightly rounded off. I couldn’t imagine what that would do except stop the seal from closing properly.

So yet ANOTHER day of my life spent fitting the new toilet which of course has exactly the same problem as before. The dry’/flush lever springs back immediately and locks the pump so you still have to hold it in position. But now it’s worse because as suspected the seal no longer works and even when flushing dry some water still enters the bowl.

Then the screw that holds the dry/flush lever came unscrewed. At this point I had not even used the toilet in anger. On inspection there was no trace of Loctite which simply means they didn’t put any on the screw so of course it came loose.

They have done nothing about the O ring being too small. I waited months for this toilet only to discover that they have done practically nothing and what they have done doesn’t even come close to solving the problem, if anything it has made it worse.

It’s a real shame as there is so much that is good about the toilet. It is well cast, well painted (except that they don’t round off sharp edges on the castings before coating) has a nice action and works well as a toilet. But it all amounts to nothing with the other faults it has. It is just pathetic. Every other toilet I have ever seen (including the Y2 they sent me) has a locking dry/flush lever and so they should have because if a toilet is left with the lever on the flush setting, water could syphon back into the bowl and sink the boat!

No doubt they tested the toilet before they shipped it but only on their completely unrealistic test rig. Without the correct resistance that a normal set up provides they will never get a proper idea of the forces acting on the toilet.

They have told me that they have sold thousands of these toilets and have never had any trouble before. They seemed to think that the reason the handle had play in it was because of the excess force that my system has. What excess force? There are no restrictions in the system other than the usual slight bends and syphon break. There can’t be more than 1.5 metres of pipework and that is considerably less than some boats I have seen. What’s more the toilet action is very smooth, hardly any resistance at all.

So after over a year of being messed around, I still don’t have a properly working toilet and this one is twice the weight. Rheinstrom are ignoring me. They clearly blame me for the wear on the handle on the Y2 although anyone can see that sharp edged stainless steel will destroy brass in no time. They clearly do not understand the problem with the dry/flush lever on the Y3 or maybe they understand all this perfectly well but are incapable of solving the problem. So I have now given up on Rheinstrom. They are as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle.

I will come up with a system myself to hold the dry/flush lever in the dry position. Then I will be able to loosen the screw that holds the lever and that will take the strain off the tiny O ring and that might mean that it doesn’t start leaking in a few weeks as the others have done. Then, maybe just maybe I will have a toilet I can use without being annoyed every time.

 

Update: 14/6/2014

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Here is the solution I came up with to stop the dry/flush lever from popping back when pumping the bowl dry.

Two tabs are held by two of the mounting screws and a 2.5 mm stainless wire is bent to have a kink in it. It is spring loaded so always pushes against the lever.

Perhaps not the most elegant solution but at least you no longer need two hands to pump out the toilet. Ridiculous that it is left to the customer to come up with a working solution. Perhaps others with a Y3 don’t mind that the lever needs holding but this is the first toilet I have ever seen which does not have a mechanism in place to lock the lever in the ‘dry’ position. It is possible to screw up the lever so tight that friction alone holds it but this leads to premature O ring wear and as the O ring is ridiculously small it just gets ripped to pieces in no time.

The spring system allows less force to be used on the lever making the toilet easier to use and hopefully allowing the O ring to last a reasonable amount of time. At least now I don’t have to be reminded of this stupid fault every time I use the toilet. Now if I can just stop the lever from rusting and if the paint doesn’t flake off or bubble like it did before I will have a nice toilet on my boat.

As I said before, there is much to like about the Y3. I like that the pump can be removed without taking the outlet pipe off. The O ring sealing system for the pump is clever so long as the replacement O rings are not too large. The pump lever has plastic bearings so is unlikely to wear like on the Y2. So long as the weight doesn’t drop off the pump flap like it did before it pumps very well and tackles anything you throw at it.

It’s a shame that Rheinstrom don’t care about all these issues. Maybe I have been unlucky but everything I have seen smacks of a poor understanding of basic engineering principles. I find it hard to believe that I am the only one to have had these issues and if I am the only one then Rheinstrom should have been able to sort them out for me instead they have chosen to bury their heads in the sand.

Categories
Leica m9

Leica M (240) T shirt

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The new Leica M. For some reason Leica have dropped the number from the name so many people are calling it the M 240 which is the camera’s in house development name. The Germans rarely do things without good reason and Leica are no exception. They have always gone their own way and I for one am glad. The M is a fascinating evolution of an old concept and once mastered can be quicker to use than any other camera.

The latest M might be seen as the last of the line. After all, where can they go from here? The screen is as big as it can be. The rangefinder has been modernised using led lighting but fundamentally it remains as pure as the first M, the M3. It’s my guess that this will be the last M camera. In the future Leica will simply offer upgrades to it. It will be possible to replace sensors and take advantage of the latest technology without the need to buy a whole new camera.

The next new thing from Leica will no doubt be a smaller body that can use the M lenses but will still have a full frame sensor and all of the legendary image quality. The rangefinder will go in favour of a Live View screen or separate viewfinder. The M will remain on sale as long as there are photographers out there who love the rangefinder system of focusing.

Available from Redbubble

Categories
boats

New wood technologies part two: Alpi

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Clever stuff. Imitation teak. The colour and graining is convincing, only the regularity lets it down slightly.

Last year I was at Mets trade show for boats. It was an impressive set up with acres of stands covering all aspects of boating. Quite by chance I came across an Italian company selling wood veneers. I couldn’t resist a look. I was very impressed with their huge range of veneers all of the highest quality. What’s more the veneers were in large sheets displayed on hangers. I was surprised that such consistency could be had from wood.

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Not sure what this one is supposed to be but it’s rather nice.

When I got home I did some reading and came to understand why the veneers were so large and so regular. The reason is because it’s not real wood. Well it is wood but it has been reconstituted. Let me explain.

Alpi wood starts life as a fast growing and sustainable wood like poplar. It is then turned in to large veneer sheets which are then dyed with eco friendly dyes. Then they are stacked together and glued to make one massive piece of plywood which is then cut to the final veneer. The colour of the dyes and the orientation of different coloured sheets can create a surprising number of convincing veneers. Even the colour of the glue can help to add to the effect. Where a wider grain is needed, the block of plywood is cut at a slight angle to create the effect. The idea is simply brilliant.

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This must be mahogany. If you like that uninteresting regular grain pattern then why wouldn’t you use this instead of real wood.

What we have here is a sustainable solution for exotic wood species. This is a completely eco product. Further more it is more stable than genuine veneers and available in much bigger sheets. You can even design your own wood. The possibilities are endless. Alpi were kind enough to send me some samples which I shall test in due time. They are not designed for outdoor use but I reckon if they are coated in a good UV varnish I see no reason why it wouldn’t do very well outdoors.

The only real problem is that the wood can appear too perfect. It lacks the flaws that give wood its character. However in the right situation Alpi wood could be a very good solution. I look forward to playing with it.

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In this close up you can clearly see the individual layers. By laying slightly different colours in varying order almost any wood grain effect can be achieved.

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Close up of the teak version. There’s a lot going on in here. The layers are thicker so this must have been cut at a slight angle and not square like the sample above this one.

www.alpi.it

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New wood technologies part 1 Tennage

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Tennage super thin veneer. Here is Walnut, Teak and Ebony.

Doing research for an upcoming project, I have been delving into the various wood technologies out there. What I am learning is that there are some truly amazing wood products out there and not only that, most are also eco friendly.

Since there are so many interesting new woods out there I will post about each separately. The first is a very thin veneer called Tennage. It is so thin that light can pass through it making it an interesting choice for lighting. It is just 0.2mm thick (or should I say thin?) and to keep it from splitting or breaking has a very flexible backing bonded to it.

This product’s green credentials come from the fact that it is produced from wood that would otherwise be considered waste. An astonishing 5000 square metres of sheet can be produced from just one cubic metre of waste wood! So although the wood itself may not sustainably managed it is still a step in the right direction. The backing is made from a natural resin so it can claim to be a non VOC wood veneer.

It can be bent around curves or even sharp corners. It can be pressed into a shape using a vacuum press. It can be laser cut and stretched out for a funky affect and it can even be sewn. It is more resistant to UV and humidity than normal thicker veneers. All in all this is a very exciting product with no end of possibilities for its use. 

Tennage is available in over 30 species of wood so should satisfy most peoples’ needs. It seems reasonably priced starting at about $150 a sheet rising to over $500. Sheet size is 900mm by 1800mm.

The only downside is that there is a minimum order of ten sheets which is over 15 square metres which is a lot if you only want to make a few lampshades!

As if the Tennage itself wasn’t amazing enough there is a product made from it which is totally extraordinary. Called Ki-Ori Tennage it is a woven wood fabric based on a traditional method invented by the Japanese over 1200 years ago called Kyoto-Nishijin-Ori .

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The Ki-Ori Tennage wood fabric. Quite extraordinary.

One might think that a woven wood would be rather stiff but in fact it is surprisingly supple and nice to the touch. It feels like a fabric but is made of 2mm strips of Tennage wood veneer. It is not strips of wood woven together but rather parallel strips held closely in place by thread. To all intents and purposes it appears as if the strips are woven together.

There is even a clearly visible grain pattern in the fabric. The look of the fabric can be changed by using any number of different materials for the thread. Cost is about $300 a square metre so it’s certainly not cheap but it can do stuff that no other woods can. Thanks to its weave, it can be formed over compound curves which makes it very versatile. It comes in one metre wide sheets 1800mm long but comes on a roll and can be made any length you like.

All this was too irresistible for me so I bought a sample pack. I am impressed with the quality and the concept. It amazes me that anyone can even produce a 0.2mm veneer in the first place. I have seen varnish thicker than that! It remains to be seen how the woven wood will look when it has been shaped and varnished but I’ll update this post with pics as soon as I get around to it.

Again, the only real downside is there is a minimum order of ten sheets which would add up to over $5000 plus import duty and shipping. I’m guessing that would equate to about 6000€. Ouch.

Here’s their website: www.onlyone-pro.com.

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boats

Quintessential Gentleman’s yacht for sale

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Waif was sold in 2013 but is now available again. Move fast, classic yachts like this don’t come around very often. Contact info@woodenwidget.com

She might only be 28 feet long but ‘Waif’ is massive below and open right from the stem to the cockpit. Her decks are epoxy sheathed so she’s dry and the wood burning stove makes Waif’s interior a very cosy place to be.

Waif is over 80 years old but structurally is in as new condition. Her shipwright owner has improved her for the last 18 years with no intention of ever selling her. Now his family are getting bigger and sadly he needs a bigger boat so Waif is for sale.

One lucky person will get a real bargain. Every frame and floor is new and the boat has been entirely refastened with copper and bronze. Her amazing pitch pine planks are all one piece and 99% of her planking is original. Original too are the deck beams, deck and coach house. Her interior is of course not original but it has been built using as much of the original wood as possible.

There is much that makes Waif special, from her massive interior to her classic Edwardian looks but for me it’s the quality of the woods used in her interior. Take the chart table for example. Made of one very wide piece of real mahogany trimmed with teak. You don’t see wood like that these days.

Waif is full of beautiful details but she’s also a very functional yacht which is ready to go sailing or act as a live aboard. Waif has been through the French canals a few times and is no stranger to the Western Med. With her long waterline she sails surprisingly swiftly and has a comfy motion. If there’s no wind the trusty BMC 40 hp diesel will get you to your destination.

She’s not perfect but all a new owner need do is steadily improve her details because they won’t need to worry about the structure! It is very rare when one has the chance to acquire a boat of this vintage that is structurally so sound and so wonderful, spacious and bright below decks.

Here are a few photos but more info is available on her website here These pics were taken using only natural light which demonstrates just how well lit Waif is.

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boats

Bill King. One of life’s characters.

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The sailing world has many extraordinary characters in it’s long history. It’s my experience that the world of sailing is responsible for more ‘interesting characters’ than any other and Bill King was an excellent example. He passed away recently at the age of 102. It seems amazing that he lived so long when one considers how tough parts of his life were. He was a submarine captain throughout the entire duration of WWII. One can only imagine the constant stress and harsh living conditions.

When he retired from the military he decided to sail around the world alone to, as he put it, ‘pull myself together mentally’. At the time Bill was thinking about the trip the Sunday Times Newspaper announced a round the world solo yacht race so Bill became one of the entrants. He didn’t make it around the world that time, being dismasted in rough seas of the south of Africa but he did eventually.

This video is from the film Deep Water which is actually about Donald Crowhurst one of the other entrants in the ‘Golden Globe’ yacht race and if you have not seen it I would highly recommend it, not just for the story of Crowhurst but for the many extra clips and interviews that come with it from the likes of Robin Knox Johnston and Bernard Moitessier. I will say no more just let you see for yourselves. This interview with Bill King was made when he was 96. What a fabulous character, and funny too. Enjoy.

Click here to view the Bill King Interview 2006

And here is a great article from the Scotsman

 

‘Remember, if anything goes wrong in your life, it’s probably your own fault’

R.I.P Bill

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boats Uncategorized

Genelec 8020 and 5040 subwoofer review

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This is all you need for a great sounding hifi. A mains supply to plug the speakers into an an Ipod. Job done! (for the review of the 5040 Sub, please see the update below)

The first time I discovered Genelec speakers was when I was rummaging in a locker in the owner’s cabin of a Swan 65 yacht. The boat was owned by Richard Wright from Pink Floyd. I picked them up. They were quite small but very heavy. If they were owned by a musician of Richard’s calibre they ought to be pretty good. Richard used them with a keyboard so he could play his music on the boat.

No time was wasted plugging them in and seeing how they sounded. To say I was amazed by the clarity and quality of sound would be an understatement. I had never heard anything quite like them. Considering their size these speakers could pack a punch. I was highly amused by the health warning on the back of the cabinets warning that these speakers could seriously damage your hearing and could reach up to 106db!!! That is ridiculously loud and very ‘rock and roll’. I simply had to have some for my boat!

On researching Genelec some time later, I learned that they no longer made the exact model of speaker that Richard had and they had been replaced by the 8020 model which was smaller and rounder in shape and are made of die cast aluminium.

They are really designed to be part of a surround sound system and as such can be daisy chained together so you can have as many as you like. There is a matching 16” Woofer that goes with them for the full system and really big sound. They use the professional standard XLR ‘lock in’ connectors.

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Quality, cast alloy cases, professional XLR connections and clever rubber feet. Made in Finland by Genelec who have been around for over 30 years.

What makes these speakers different is the fact that they are active. What that means is that they have an amplifier built in. In fact, they have two in each speaker. This does mean that you need a mains supply to make them work but the great advantage is that the amp is perfectly suited to the speakers. One amp runs the woofer and the other amp the tweeter. It also means is that there is no crossover needed and so the sound is pure with all the components perfectly matched. It’s a very sensible and intelligent way to go about things.

When I bought mine about three years ago, they cost about £200 each, now they are about £300 each which is a lot of money for a small speaker. But they are quality and they sound fantastic and are worth every penny. When ever I turn them up, visitors are always amazed for two reasons, one, because they sound so ‘BIG’ and two, because they can’t work out where the sound is coming from. That is because they are so small that they are practically invisible, one on each side of the boat on a shelf above the forward bunk.

They are perfect for a small space and they really fill the boat with sound. If I had a criticism it is that they demand to be heard. Even at low volumes they want you to listen to them. They are not the ideal speakers if you want something to play background music with. But if you love music and like to LISTEN to it, then definitely consider a pair of these.

I do not have the matching woofer on the boat because there is simply no need. On paper, the frequency response for these speakers is nothing to write home about with the bottom end a piddly 66 hz but for their size they produce PLENTY of bass. They have a switch at the back so if you use them with the woofer you can reduce the bass still further and have just the mid and top end.

Whether I listen to them from the laptop or from an MP3 player, the sound is fabulous. Ever since I can remember I have been surrounded by quality hifi equipment. I well remember my dad’s leak speakers and very expensive Stax electrostatic headphones. I always had mates who were well into their hifi so I know what a good sound is.

I will try and describe the sound for you. The bottom end is tight and warm and really very good for such small speakers. After all the woofer is only 4” in diameter which is tiny. The bass sound is increased by the special shape of the cases which is round so that the sound gets focused as it works it’s way out of the speaker through a port at the back. The midrange is uncluttered, clear and punchy. The top end is sharp and clean, detailed and very realistic.

They sound best when playing quality recordings. They can be a bit critical as they reproduce sound so well that you really do hear everything. If there are faults in the recording, you will hear them.

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The Genelec 8020B active speakers. They can be adjusted for tilt a little on their rubber feet. On/off volume control and a green LED at the front, all other adjustments at the back. Heavy little speakers at nearly 4 kilos each.

When you place them about 2 metres apart and place yourself centrally about a metre and a half away, they have a very special quality indeed. Close your eyes and you can hear so much more. They really come alive when well placed with superb stereo separation. Voices and acoustic guitars sound so natural it’s amazing.

There are always certain tracks that I use as a reference. Tunes that are either beautifully played or sung and well produced, preferably all three. For guitar I like to listen to Steven Still’s Tree top flyer. Not only is it a great tune but it’s a beautiful recording (not the youtube version though I’m afraid!). John Martyn is always great to listen to. Here he shows his mastery of the echoplex. I love the bass on The Chain. And the Police are always worth listening to.  They seem to cope well with all genres of music old and modern, slow and fast, from easy listening to Motorhead.

But perhaps the best test for any stereo set up is this fabulous track (happiness is easy) from Talk Talk’s superb album ‘The colour of Spring’. If you don’t know Talk Talk, do yourself a favour and give them a go. You may not like them at first but persevere as I did. You will not regret it.

I had a problem with one of the speakers after about a year. It just stopped working. The problem was traced to a faulty transformer. It cost a very reasonable £20 to replace and was quickly dealt with by the UK company that deals with Genelec. Since then the speakers have performed flawlessly. They are left on for as much as 8 hours every day.

They do not pick up any sounds of interference such as alternator noise or mobile phones. This is a quality product. They are supplied with a special rubber stand/feet and a power cable but you’ll need to supply your own XLR cables to connect them to the source of your choice.

Depending on the power output of the source, they can be very very loud, with my Creative MP3 at full volume they are pretty loud but can be much louder with the laptop. They are certainly loud enough to thoroughly annoy the neighbours if necessary!

Would I recommend them? Oh yes. For their size they are fantastic and very portable. All you need is a power supply and you can have real quality sound wherever you are. Perfect for a small space like a boat although it is a bit of a shame that they are not 12V. It’s no real problem though as even the smallest inverter will power them as they only take 20 Watts each and that is at full volume. In practice they take much less than that. It’s almost perpetual motion as much more seems to come out than goes in! They sound much louder than 20 watts to me!

If you would like to know more about them, check out the Genelec site.

 

Update December 2012

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The Genelec 5040 subwoofer and remote volume control. Cast alloy and top quality. The sound that comes out is amazing.

Genelec recently launched an even smaller speaker than the 8020 featured above. They are the 6010s. It has a tiny 3” woofer but even though they are tiny they have been getting good reviews. To go with these little speakers, Genelec have produced a small sub woofer called the 5040. It has a 6.5”  speaker and a 40 watt amp built in. It can produce a very respectable 96 db and has a frequency response that goes down to 35 hz which is pretty low.

Like all Genelec products it’s beautifully made and thought out. Although it is really designed for the 6010s Genelec say it can be used with the 8020s too. It was too much for me to resist so I decided to get one. It lives under the bed in a locker which I rarely visit. A nice touch with the 5040 is that it has a separate volume control which simply plugs in to the 5040 with a standard 3.5mm stereo jack. This control lowers the volume of the sub and the speakers which are connected to it.

If you visit the Genelec site you will find all sorts of info about using a frequency generator to properly set up your sub and loads of advice about speaker position. However much of their advice is academic to me as I have no choice but to put the speakers where they will fit, not where they are best situated. There are a few adjustments you can make to the speakers and the sub to get the sound just right but Genelec suggest trying the standard settings first.

Let me tell you that right out of the box this sub is unbelievable. I don’t know what other word to use. I have never heard anything like it. Now that the 8020s have their bass turned off and the sub is handling that end they are even louder as the little woofer doesn’t have to even try and handle the bottom end. The noise that comes out of these speakers is astonishing.

A friend said that now I will have trouble with things vibrating in the boat but it has not been the case. The bass is so well reproduced and clean that nothing has been set vibrating yet which is astonishing considering the power of the bass now. You can feel it through the entire floor in the boat. It is incredible just how loud you can turn the music up with no distortion at all. It all remains very clear and sharp.

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The underside showing all the controls. This is a serious bit of kit. Designed for the 6010 system but also works perfectly with the 8020s. I see no reason why it wouldn’t work with any active speakers.

There are some tracks that are just extraordinary and have me laughing at the outrageousness of it all. Eric Truffaz’s song Siegfried and Less from his album Bending New Corners will amaze you with their clarity and fatness (for want of a better word!). This combination of 8020s and the 5040 is fantastic on my boat. I don’t know how it would fare in a bigger space but for my needs they are more than enough and loud enough for anyone’s ears.

The sub can be adjusted for volume so you match it to your other speakers and it has various inputs and outputs for many more options that I will ever need. The volume control is pure class. It is extremely weighty so that it doesn’t move when operated. It is just a rotating knob which lowers the system volume. This is a much better system for the boat because I no longer has to press the function and F keys to lower the volume on the computer which was a real pain.

What’s interesting is that the system now seems easier to listen to. The sub is not intrusive, merely doing what it should be doing. The overall sound is great, very addictive, warm, compelling and complete.

Genelec’s may be pricy but it’s a classic case of getting what you pay for. Active speakers may not be ideal for everyone but they make a lot of sense in many ways. We have an inverter on board that we use to run mains powered items including the speakers. At normal listening volume the speaker system takes about 2.5 amp/hr which isn’t too bad and compares to a typical car stereo unit. However when the volume is cranked up you can use three times that amount!

Conclusion:

If the 8020s were good on their own, they are incredible with the 5040 sub woofer. Genelec recommend a far bigger one for the 8020s normally but as far as I am concerned the 8020s go beautifully with the smaller 5040 sub.

The sound is (pick your own superlative) and the quality indisputable. The 8020s have been on board for a few years now and are used for hours every day. They are sometimes used off the boat too thanks to their portability. They get a lot of use and apart from the one small problem which was quickly sorted they have been flawless.

The volume control is a nice touch and makes the speakers very easy to use. They have plenty of adjustment but straight out of the box the system sounds perfect to me. Hard to imagine that I might get it sounding even better. If the sub needs ‘running in’ like most speakers then I can only imagine it getting better and better in time.

Bloody brilliant. Worth every penny. Very happy.

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boats Uncategorized

Proxxon BBS/S Mini belt sander review

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Hard to see the scale of the sander in this picture. See the next pic below to see how small it really is.

It’s often crossed my mind that many power tools are just too big for my needs. Boat building is a unique trade and often tools that are fine for construction tasks on a building site are either not up the task or are too bulky or heavy to be practical.

Many years ago I had a small Bosch belt sander that was excellent. It was powerful yet small and light, both useful traits when holding a power tool above your head in the small and awkward places often found on boats. When it expired I felt its loss keenly. I bought a bigger Bosch belt sander and although it is an excellent tool and is still going strong I do miss that little tool. Bosch stopped making it and I have not been able to find another since.

Enter Proxxon, a German company who have been making miniature tools for 30 years. In their catalogue of amusing tools I found a small belt sander. It is hard to see how small it is from the pictures on their website but you can get an idea from the belt size and contact area. It uses belts 40 x 265 mm in size and they are available in grits from 80 to 240. The contact area is a tiny 40 x 60mm.

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Tiny little machine. Belt cover off for inspection.

The motor is 150 Watts which isn’t much but then it’s not bad either for so small a power tool. At 175 mm long and just 700 grams it fits perfectly in one hand. There is a rocker switch on the top/back of the tool. The rollers are alloy and seem high quality. The belt is held in by spring pressure alone and is easy to change. The backing plate is made from some kind of hard plastic. There is an adjuster on one side that adjusts the belt’s position.

It comes in a plastic carry case which even has holes for a padlock which makes me laugh. It can be mounted upside down on a bench and comes with the necessary clamp. It also has a dust extraction pipe and adapter. It is delivered with a selection of belts. The power cable is not very long but I forgive that in a small tool.

It’s quiet and does not seem to spin that fast. Proxxon claim 160 metres a minute. That’s about half the speed of a full sized model, despite this, it is surprisingly effective at removing material with the 80 grit belts on it. It seems to be made from nice quality parts and it feels like a serious machine despite its toy-like look. It costs about £130.

The reality though is that I broke it after just a few minutes work! The belt lost a tooth and that was that. I did not use excessive pressure on the tool yet it stripped a belt. On inspection it seems that there is not enough tension on the belt and of course there is no way to adjust it. I could be wrong, it could be that I have just been unlucky to get a machine with a defective belt. However the motor’s cog is made of plastic and the teeth do not seem to grip the belt very well.

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Despite hardly any use at all the belt has already lost a tooth rendering the tool unusable.

Before it broke I was already disappointed with the machine. I looks great and is very quiet but I can’t really say anything else positive about it. It has a host of issues that were apparent right out of the box. The first thing is the on/off switch. It should be housed at the front of the machine where a finger can operate it. It has very little resistance and can switch on very easily, a potential hazard.

The plastic moulded base plate is far from flat. This is very poor especially for a miniature tool which will do a lot of delicate work.

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The backing plate was nowhere near flat. I had to do that with a block and some sandpaper!

The belt adjuster screw is far too sensitive and it is hard to get the belt to run centrally without it wandering off. The tiniest touch of the screw will move the belt which is really annoying. The screw is also a very loose fit and it has the habit of undoing itself. This is not so easy to rectify.

 

Conclusion:

A really disappointing experience. A very poor tool let down by a over sensitive belt adjuster which comes undone, a poorly moulded base plate and a switch which does not naturally fall to hand.

The belt lost a tooth after a few minutes of gentle use. It is possible that I was sold a duff machine with a weak belt but even still, there is far too much that is wrong with this machine.

A real shame as there is a place for a decent quality mini belt sander in my tool kit but  it’s not this one!

Update 30/12/12

It’s been two months and I still do not have a working machine. Proxxon have been as useful as a chocolate fireguard and love to tell me how they have not had any reports of problems with belts on the machine. Axminster power tools in the UK (where I bought the machine) have been no better. They sent me a replacement belt which had teeth missing!!! This may go some way to explain the problem with mine. It’s likely that there are a few dodgy belts out there although Proxxon say they have checked all theirs and they are fine.

So the sander will go back and I will never buy another Proxxon tool again. That’s twice I have tried buying Proxxon tools and twice I have been disappointed. They look like such clever little tools but in reality they are a complete joke. Proxxon do not seem very interested in proving that I am wrong but keep blathering on about how many units they have sold with no problems. Why do companies do this? Do they not realise that I couldn’t give a toss about other customer’s machines. I have spent good money for a quality tool that turns out to not be quality at all ( for many reasons) and doesn’t even work at all. Months have passed and it still isn’t working. Pathetic.