Touch up American Flyer paint

If you have an A.C. Gilbert-manufactured American Flyer steam locomotive made between 1939 and 1967 that still runs but has seen its better days appearance-wise, there’s an easy way to touch it up to make it look better. Here’s how to touch up American Flyer paint.

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HP Compaq 6910p upgrades

I spent some time exploring HP Compaq 6910p upgrades because used HP Compaq 6910p laptops are dirt cheap these days. I picked one up for $75 as an alternative to a Black Friday cheapie.

If you look for one yourself, either look for one with a valid Windows 7 or Windows 10 license on it, or get one at a deep enough discount to make it worth your while.

Here’s what I did to turn an outmoded laptop from 2008 into something better than what I could have bought on Black Friday.

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Cleaning Lionel Fastrack

Lionel Fastrack has some advantages, but after a decade or so of using it under a Christmas tree, I have to say staying clean isn’t one of them. Here are the secrets of cleaning Lionel Fastrack safely.

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Vinyl tiles won’t stick? What to do.

As I write, I’m installing self-stick vinyl tiles in an old basement as part of a project to modernize a ’70s man cave. It’s possible to run into a few problems when installing vinyl, so I thought I’d run through them, along with the solutions. When vinyl tiles won’t stick, there are ways to prevent and fix the problem.

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Not quite a new floor in a bottle, but…

There are several acrylic floor finishes–sometimes mistakenly called wax–that promise they’re like a new floor in a bottle. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but if you have reasonable expectations, they definitely can make a floor look better and easier to clean. And depending on how you use them, they can even make the floor last longer.

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How to paint outlet covers

If you need to know how to paint outlet covers, there are right and wrong ways to do it.

Many years ago, I was helping to renovate a soup kitchen in Belle Glade, Florida. One of the things I did was paint it. I’ve never been a great painter, but I took pains to stay away from the outlet covers so the room would look neat.

“David!” the leader, a guy named John, barked. I looked up.

“Paint that cover plate.”

He was in charge, so I did what I was told. I slapped a thick coat of latex paint onto that cover plate to blend it into the wall. I’m sure John thought it looked spectacular. But I guarantee you, by the end of the summer, it looked terrible.

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Why accordion-style flexible drain pipe is against code

flexible drain pipe
An example of a flexible coupling

From time to time I see accordion-style flexible drain pipe (also sometimes called flexible waste pipe) in use, much like the one on the right. St. Louis County inspectors take an exceptionally dim view of these, and I always wondered what the big deal was, since literally every hardware and home-improvement store in St. Louis County sells them. Why would they sell something if it isn’t okay to use it? Read more

Vuescan: A review from a non-photographer’s perspective

Vuescan is a third-party scanning tool for most versions of Windows, OS X, and Linux. It supports hundreds of scanners, including those abandoned by manufacturers. It’s probably better than what came with your scanner. The pro edition probably costs as much as your scanner too, but comes with lifetime free updates, so you know you’ll be able to use your scanner for as long as it continues to operate, rather than rolling the dice on manufacturer-provided drivers working with your next upgrade. And you can run it on up to four computers at a time, which is nice.

Full disclosure: I bought this software myself. I was not provided a copy for review, nor am I receiving anything in exchange for writing this review. Now that’s out of the way, and you don’t to have to guess about my motives. Read more

Why you can’t get a $50 replacement sound/control board for your modern Lionel train

Every so often, some people start raging on the train forums, or even in the pages of the magazines, about modern electronics in modern O gauge trains. The modern electronics make the model trains sound just like real trains, but eventually heat and power surges take their toll, the board goes poof, and now that $2,000 toy train doesn’t work anymore and needs a $300 replacement circuit board.

And by the time that happens, that $300 replacement circuit board might be out of production, and no longer available at any price.

Which has led to countless calls for some enterprising hobbyist to become a multimillionaire by inventing a $50 replacement board that works on every train.

There are several reasons for the situation. Read more

My greatest estate find

If you’ve been reading this blog for a few years, you know I kind of like trains. But my favorite way to buy them isn’t to buy them at a train store. I like to buy them from estates.

One week, I spotted a few late-production Marx 6-inch cars and a plastic locomotive in an estate ad. I tallied up $30 worth of trains in the picture, and figured I’d be lucky if they asked $60 for it. But I decided to take another look at the picture,  just in case.

This wasn’t an ordinary train. Read more