Monday, February 13, 2023

Nice shoe care

 This will be about basic smooth leather shoe and boot care for traditional non-sneaker shoes.  Some of this may apply to sneakers, but sneaker leather is usually different than good quality dress/casual/boot leather, often having plastic coatings on the leather. (There are "dress shoes" with plastic coatings as well, those aren't good quality for the purposes of this post.  If polish doesn't stick or conditioner doesn't soak in a bit it's probably coated) 

TLDR version:  Don't wear the same shoes every day, once or twice a year put some Bick 4 on, let it dry and wipe it off.  That's enough to maximise longevity, the rest is cosmetic. 

There are different levels of care.   There isn't all that much you can do for most soles.  For leather soles, sole guards (thin rubber sheets glued to the soles by a cobbler) wear longer...or at least switch the wear to an easily replaceable rubber layer.  If the soles are durable or worth replacing keeping the uppers in good shape makes more sense.  Even minimal care will help with looks.   Note, the look I'm going for is "well cared for" rather than "first time wearing".  If you are going to replace soles and heels, pay attention to the layers.  If you catch the wear at the first layer of sole or heel the job is easier and cheaper, the second layer (in most shoes) somewhat more expensive.  If the wear gets to the welt the job becomes much more difficult and expensive, and likely not worth the cost.  

Preventative:  Number one is rotate your shoes--Give your shoes or boots time to thoroughly dry out between wears.  Alternating between two pairs will give more than twice the life of the uppers compared to wearing one pair daily.   Use shoe trees for storing dressier shoes to reduce wrinkling, curling and creasing.  Trees don't have to be fancy.  Cedar trees will absorb moisture and help the shoes dry faster but plastic or metal will still help hold the shape of the shoes.  Trees also make polishing easier.   

Keep your shoes reasonably clean.  Brush dirt and dust with a horsehair brush, use a damp rag for salt or dirt that the brush won't get. Don't let salt sit on your shoes.  I often see diluted vinegar recommended for salt stains, haven't needed it yet since hearing of it. 

A good conditioner, applied about twice a year under normal use.  Shoes that are in severe conditions will need conditioning more often, but unworn shoes still need periodic conditioning--If the leather is stiff, it probably needs to be conditioned before wearing to prevent cracking.  Bick 4 is probably the most widely recommended all purpose conditioner among shoe snobs--it protects well without darkening most leather, it is relatively inexpensive but still used by some of the best cobblers.  Boot oil, mink oil or neatsfoot oil give more protection in severe use but are likely to darken the leather and prevent a high shine, and over-conditioning is possible. Oils are usually limited to workboots (and similar styles of fashion boots) where durability is more important than shine. 

To use Bick 4--Apply with whatever--sometimes I use fingers, a rag, an old toothbrush gets into crevices better.   Let it soak in for 15 minutes or so.  If it soaks in instantly, add more.  After it dries brush it with a horsehair shoe brush or a soft cloth for a slight shine.  

If you want more gloss, a cream polish in addition to conditioner.  Venetian Shoe cream is a good neutral cream--another inexpensive product used by some very good cobblers.  Neutrals are great when you don't have color damage, and especially if you have different colors of leather--a natural welt on a black shoe for example.  (If you're wearing don't need advice from me)  Creams will give more shine than Bick but not as much as a wax.  If there's color damage I use a colored cream, sometimes only where the scuff is depending on how closely the polish matches the shoe.  Saphir has the best reputation, Tarrago and Kelly's are also brands I'm happy with.  I use mostly Tarrago because it's available at a local shoe store at about half the price of similar quality polish from Amazon.  Apply with an applicator brush (a toothbrush works) or cloth, let dry, buff with a soft cloth or horsehair shoe buffing brush. 

For a high gloss, a wax based polish.  Kiwi is a low quality example of a wax polish.  I use Allen Edmonds for colored wax because it has a good reputation and it was on sale.  Saphir for neutral--I don't need much, and it works with all colors.  I like to let waxes sit overnight if possible especially if trying to fix scuffs and scratches.  Wax polish will build up and crack if over-applied.  Cracking is mostly a problem with mirror shined shoes...which I don't do.  I concentrate on the toes and heel area, avoiding wax buildup on flexible parts where it might crack.  You don't always need more polish to get a shine, just buff what's already there.  You also may not need a colored polish to fix a scuff, sometimes just some conditioner or neutral polish will blend in the damage. 

Not all leather shoes can be realistically polished.  Oily leather boots are difficult to make shiny. Conditioner still helps with oily leather, and a pigmented polish can help with uneven color. Plastic coated leather is essentially maintenance free...not that it doesn't need maintenance, but rather it won't do much good.  

Avoid getting dark polish on lighter colored areas--you don't usually have to polish with color right to the edge.  An exception is for decorative perforations--some people will use a darker polish wiped off immediately to highlight the perforations.  Stitching may or may not absorb the color.  

For buffing I have a brush for black, and a brush for everything else.  Applicators are specific to that type and color of polish, dark brown and light brown use different brushes, cream and wax are also different.  For oddball colors (I've got one pair of navy blue loafers...that I've polished but never worn) I'll usually use a clean spot on a rag. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

2022 Ford Maverick truck 3000 mile review

 A while back I started shopping for a new vehicle.  Wife was driving a 1998 Ranger--still reliable, but getting old and lacking modern safety features.  I was driving a 2018 Honda Fit bought new.  I wanted to keep the ability to haul our quad pedal bike around, to haul plywood and such from Home Depot--more than a car can hold by volume, but rarely more weight. We were thinking of a Civic and putting a roof rack or trailer hitch on one car.  I saw a video review of a pre-production Maverick that didn't include a test drive.  Based on that it looked almost perfect--Front drive unibody 4 door with a useful bed instead of a trunk, with a standard hybrid projected to get 40 mpg city.  The only problem was that they were taking orders before any were available for test drives. It turned out that my local dealer wasn't requiring deposits (and others were refundable) so the only real risk was getting harassed by salesmen.   I ordered an Ecoboost in early August, then when I found out how the E-CVT worked (It isn't a traditional belt and pulley system) changed my order to a Hybrid on August 10.  I had to get the top Lariat model with the top Luxury trim package to get adaptive cruise, a feature I won't willingly go without, I didn't get any stand-alone options other than Area 51 as the no-charge color.  

Then the wait.  Ford has a system to inform customers of progress in their order, but that requires the dealer to properly input your email address. Apparently mine didn't.  Months passed.  I read  r/FordMaverickTruck on Reddit, and Maverick Truck Club forums.   Journalists started reviewing pre-production models, details were finalized. 2.0 Turbo (non-hybrid) trucks were being built and shipped to customers, but hybrids were delayed.   Finally the hybrid EPA ratings were released and they became OKTB (Okay to Buy)...but almost immediately hybrids sold out for the 2022 model year.  All Mavericks sold out in January.   Finally at the beginning of April my truck arrived. 

The Maverick is based on the same platform as the Escape and Bronco Sport crossovers The base model is a front drive hybrid, combining a 2.5 liter Atkinson cycle engine and 2 electric motor-generators through a planetary E-CVT transmission.   This results in 191 combined horsepower, and gas mileage of 33 highway, 42 city, 37 combined.  1500lb payload and 2000 pound towing.  Upgrade to the 2.0 Ecoboost turbo and horsepower goes to 250...but city mileage drops 20mpg!  With the turbo you can get AWD, with AWD you can upgrade to a 4000 pound tow capacity. 

The hybrid takes a bit of getting used to--push the start button, some clicks and whirrs, but no engine, just a ready message on the dash.  Twist the shifter dial and go. The engine never really idles, and there's a power meter instead of a tachometer.  If I had to guess, I'd say minimum RPM is around 1800.  Engine noise is only vaguely related to throttle in normal use, although it will rev up when you floor the gas pedal.  I'm happy with the power--it has substantially more power and acceleration than the econoboxes I'm used to driving despite being bigger.  I'm also very happy with the mileage--according to the dashboard readouts of my Fit and the Maverick I'm not sure which one is better...but it appears to be the Maverick.   For comparison, my one way commute is about 10 miles of 70 mph interstate, 5 city and 5 back country roads, I typically set the cruise at 5-8 mph over the speed limit.  Not an "all city" mix that favors the hybrid.  The Fit in the summer got 36-38 most trips (It did best on country roads to , the maverick is 38+ since I reset the 2nd trip meter shortly after I got it.  

I've got experience with the driver assist systems on Hondas, mostly my Fit but also newer Accords, CRVs and an Odyssey.  The Fit works about the same as the other Hondas except it beeps and turns off below 25mph where the more expensive Hondas can follow a slowing car to a complete stop.   Ford is far more prone to beeping at you--It is much more likely to give a "put your hands on the wheel" message when your hands ARE on the wheel, and when the lane centering can't see the road well enough to center, it beeps at you as it shuts off...then it silently goes back to work, then it beeps again...  On the other hand, Honda is more likely to complain about drifting out of your lane.  Every few months the Fit would mis-judge either oncoming traffic on a curve or someone turning as grounds for an alarm and a BRAKE message on the dash, that hasn't happened on the Maverick.  It is also moderately common for the Fit and I to both decide to brake at the same time resulting in much more braking force than I intended, I haven't felt that in the Maverick.   

The Maverick is substantially smoother in both adaptive cruise behavior and lane centering than the Fit.  One factor may be the type of system, Ford has lane centering and lane keeping, while Honda has lane keeping--Ford tries to center you, Honda only tries to keep you from leaving your lane but lets you wander from side to side.  Sometimes the Fit would lose sight of a car on a winding road or a hill and accelerate when it shouldn't, and the lane keeping assist would wander if it was wet enough for tire marks to show up.  The brakes on the Fit are a bit grabby--I'm not sure if that's some of the driver assist functions or due to it's rear drums.  The Maverick's cruise handles curves and hills better. Brakes on the Maverick are also uneven but in different ways, more at slow speeds--I haven't been able to memorize the pressure needed for a particular amount of deceleration.  I've had a few trips in an Accord hybrid, the transition between regenerative and normal brakes is much better.  Honda's lane assist is a separate feature from adaptive cruise and must be turned on every trip.  The Maverick's lane centering is tied to adaptive cruise, but can be disabled.  The separate lane assist can be left on, it works without cruise at speeds above 45mph.   Honda remembers Eco and Cruise control modes (not your set speed, but whether it's ready to set a speed) between trips, Ford has a couple of other drive modes besides normal and eco, but defaults to Normal and Cruise off for every trip.  That's fairly annoying, I prefer Eco--a bit more regenerative braking when you let off the gas, a more gradual throttle, and the cruise control doesn't accelerate as hard.  The steering wheel controls are shuffled and cruise control function is a bit different--I think I like Ford's better, but the differences sometimes have me doing things the Honda way, in particular I often set the cruise to the current speed instead of resuming. 

The Mavericks seats are more comfortable for me on long trips. I'm not sure I will like the ActiveX seats (artificial leather) in the summer, but they were part of the package required for adaptive cruise. I do like the electric seat's ability to adjust in very small increments. I've got a very wide range of comfortable positions--I can reach everything with the seat all the way back, but unlike most cars I'm better off a few inches forward, and I can go quite a bit forward with only a tiny difference in comfort.  I like heated seats far more than I thought I would .  The interior style suits me-not trying to disguise that it's plastic, but nicely done with a variety of colors and textures.  Instead of covering bolts with plugs, they put Ford logos on the bolts and made them attractive.  (I remember 80's dashboards where fake allen bolts were a thing...)  The one exception ( other than seat material) is the bronze accents on the Lariat package--I like the interiors of the lower trim models better. 

I suspect I'll really like remote start in the winter, especially combined with the heated seats and steering wheel--it has been nice on the few moderately cold days so far.  (I'd love a version that would let me run only a heated seat back, without having a warm butt, call it "old man mode".)  The hybrid affects the air conditioning in a good way--the AC is electric, and the engine doesn't have to run continuously for the AC to run, although the engine will start up briefly every so often to keep the battery charged.  

Navigation isn't available.  Instead all trims have Android Auto and Apple Carplay to show your phone's maps on the truck's Infotainment screen.  

The bed is about 4 1/2 feet long, probably 50 inches wide.  There are slots for lumber in several places to use as a bed divider or to support 4x8 sheets, and the tailgate has a middle position where it can also support a 4x8 sheet at wheel well height  There are multiple tie down points--D rings in the front corners, 4 at the tailgate opening, sliding tie downs on rails on the bed sides, and combination tie downs/bottle openers on the tailgate.  I wasn't sure I'd like a tonneau cover so I got a cheap tri-fold. I keep wood in the "plywood hauling" slots--partly to keep things from sliding forward, partly to hold a folding plastic crate to have a place to put stuff where it's less likely to get leaked on if my cover isn't completely water-tight.  The combination of the tonneau and locking tailgate is nice--of course someone could slash the cover open fairly easily, but they would have to know there's something worth the trouble.  If this cover gets shabby or breaks I'll get a better one but so far it's doing fine. 

The Lariat Luxury package comes with 110v outlets in both bed and cab, limited to 400w.  I haven't used them, and like a lot of that package it isn't something I'd have bought separately.   Ford includes DIY 12v wiring in the tailgate so you don't have to run your own wires to add an accessory.  There's also a cubby on the passenger side that can store tie down straps or similar.  

The Fordpass app lets you start, stop, lock and unlock from anywhere you have cell coverage to anywhere the truck has cell coverage, can tell you where it is,  how much gas is left and how long before the next oil change.  It turns out that if you try to use it while riding a bike it makes you verify that you aren't driving. (The bike in question is a two person four wheeler, and Wife was steering)

For my uses, the Maverick is exceptional.  Even though it's the cheapest new truck available, I don't know that I'd prefer any of the more expensive ones at the same price.  I don't need much of a truck, I don't need a truck that often--but the Maverick is pretty good as a car while being plenty of truck.  It's actually a bit more truck in cargo capacity and towing than the Ranger it replaced. 

Sunday, February 27, 2022

The hybrid continuum

At one end of the scale, there's a pure ICE--Internal Combustion Engine.  This is the normal gasoline or diesel engine everyone knows about.  At the other is pure electric--Tesla, Rivian, etc.   A hybrid is a mix of the two. 

Why add the complexity of a hybrid? 

Conventional brakes just turn speed into heat.  Hybrids have regenerative braking--this runs the generator, slowing you down as it charges the battery so you can use that charge to get moving again.  ICE engines are generally most efficient at a particular speed...but that speed is rarely the one you want to use for normal driving.   They are often particularly inefficient at speeds you need to use most often.  Atkinson Engines are an extreme version of this--They tend to make less power per liter/cubic inch of engine size, do more work per gallon of gas, and by themselves do not have enough power for normal driving at low engine speeds.  Conveniently, electric motors are best where the Adkinson is worst, so a blend of the two works well.  Hybrids also make it more practical to power accessories with electricity so the engine doesn't have to run to keep the AC on for example. 

A mild hybrid system has a relatively small electric system.  It recovers power from braking, but the hybrid motors and batteries may not be capable of powering the car alone.  An early BMW system merely charged the normal 12v battery to reduce the load of the alternator.  The first generation Honda Insights had "Integrated Motor Assist" a 13 hp electric motor sandwiched between the  67 hp ICE and the transmission.   This allowed regenerative braking and gave a bit of extra power to the ICE--but the engine had to be running if the IMA was running.  Honda continued using IMA with bigger electric motors until fairly recently.   There isn't a clear line between mild and full hybrid.

A full hybrid will have a bigger electrical power system, generally with the capability of running on pure electric for short periods.  The Ford Maverick pickup I have on order has a 162 HP Atkinson cycle ICE,  plus 131 hp electric from two motor-generators.  Electric motors have peak power at low speeds, while the ICE peak is at a higher speed.  Since the peaks don't align the total is lower than just adding the two, in this case 191 hp.   The ICE will attempt to only run at it's most energy efficient speed.  If that's not quite enough power, the electric can help.  If that is too much power, the extra goes back into the battery. When the battery nears full, the ICE will shut off, and the electric motors will take over.  Under hard acceleration both ICE and electric will run until the battery is depleted, then it will be ICE alone with reduced power.   Note, the electric motor-generators on the Maverick are always used even when battery power isn't, it is the various combinations of "motor" and "generator" that "shift" the transmission.  In some circumstances one motor generator will generate electricity and send it to the other motor generator to keep the ICE at it's optimum speed and load.  Reverse is entirely electric. 

A plug in hybrid has more batteries than a full hybrid with the ability to run some substantial distance on battery alone.   It is intended to be plugged in and run off that charge for most trips, but with the ability to use gasoline for longer trips.  This may be similar to a full hybrid with bigger batteries, or closer to a full electric, with a relatively small ICE that only charges the battery with no connection to the wheels. 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Sewn Shoes

"He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet."   (Men at Arms, Terry Pratchett)

Years ago, I had a sole of a pair of sandals come unglued at the toe, leaving the sole flapping.   I found a replacement pair. I thought to myself "At least ths sole is sewn on to these, they should last a long time".   I was wrong on both counts.  When that sole came loose I found out that the stitching was just decorative and didn't attach anything.  As I got older i learned that a non-sneaker shoe over $100 was far more likely to last more than a year, but I still had some trouble telling the difference between $100 worth of durability and a $50 shoe with $50 worth of fashionable brand name tacked on.  A few months ago Youtube suggested a video by Bedo's Leatherworks where he recrafts shoes as he explains, and I learned the difference between stitched on and cemented soles. 

A leather Goodyear Welt is the traditional American construction.  A strip of leather (the welt) is stitched to the uppers and insole, then the midsole and usually the outsole is stitched to the welt.  Bulkier and stiffer than most other methods, but durable and easy to re-sole.  The construction leaves a cavity in the shoe between the insole and midsole that needs to be filled, often with cork or foam.  If care is taken while recrafting the welt can be re-used through multiple resoles, and the welt can usually be replaced.  (Click to enlarge the pictures--and my blog reader is mangling the layout, you may want to read this directly on Blogger)

A couple of generations  ago Goodyear welt was the normal construction for even mid grade shoes, now it is limited mostly to mid-grade or better work boots.  Dressier GYW shoes still exist but are relatively rare.  Not all GYW shoes are quality--in particular boots that advertise it as a feature often use a plastic welt that is likely to crack.     Pictured is a vintage GYW shoe with the outsole and midsole removed, showing construction details at the welt joint.  The upper picture shows the welt sewn through the upper, the lower picture is the same area from the bottom.  This particular shoe has Poron sheet foam filler, better shoes would generally have cork or leather. 

Blake Stitch is relatively simple in concept--the whole stack of insole, midsole and outsole is stitched straight through by a machine that can reach all the way into the toe.  Sleeker and more flexible than Goodyear Welt, may need less break in.  They can be re-soled, but not all cobblers have the machine to do it. They also can't be re-soled as many times--you can't re-use the holes, and when too many new holes have been made the leather will tear and there's no welt to replace. 

Hand Sewn--The toe of a moccasin style shoe is hand stitched, then the sole is usually Blake stitched to the upper.    The shoe pictured is a blake stitched hand sewn loafer with the sole stitching visible inside the shoe.  Blake stitched shoes may have a liner covering the inside stitching, you may be able to see traces of the sole stitching between the upper and the sole.  On the shoe pictured you can see that there is no stitching visible on top of the sole, ruling out GYW without looking inside.

Blake Rapid is sort of a hybrid between Blake and Goodyear welt.  Instead of a welt, the midsole is Blake stitched to the insole and upper, then the outsole (bottom layer) is stitched to the midsole .  Eliminates the direct path for water to wick.  It can be hard to tell the difference between Blake Rapid and Goodyear welt without disassembling the shoe

Stitch Down--The upper is folded outward, then stitched to the sole.  More common on boots, and especially chukka or Desert Boots.  This picture isn't entirely typical of stitch down, usually the upper leather will extend all the way to the edge of the sole rather than being inset like this one.  

A few sneakers (mostly from non-athletic brands) use a cup sole sewn through the sidewall.  Born uses a similar construction on many of their shoes they call Opanka.  Many of the sneakers are at least technically resoleable, Born says their version isn't.   

Most other sewn sole shoes are variations and combinations of the above...but sewn soles are a tiny percentage of all shoes, mostly in work boots where the durability is more important.  Most shoes are some sort of cement (glued) construction.  

It turns out my floppy sandals were bondwelt, a form of cement construction that mimics the look of GYW.  Bondwelted shoes have a welt that is only decorative with stitching that is only decorative, the sole is held on with glue.  These often look tidier than a true GYW because it is easier to stitch in a straight line on a roll of flat welt than to follow the shape of the shoe with an upper in the way.   

Shoes don't have to be sewn to be fairly durable--there are plenty of good non-sewn shoes that will  last until the sole wears through.  However, sewn-on soles are far more likely to be economically reasonable to resole or recraft, and with care can last through several recraftings.   I also object to fake details--If there's a welt I want it to be real, if there are stitches I want them to do something. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Trying Google Fi

I decided to try Google Fi, their wireless phone service.   At the same time, I purchased a new phone for Wife since her phone is ancient with horrible battery life, and wasn't fully compatible with Fi.  The new phone was a Moto G Power, a mid-grade phone with excellent battery life.  The phone was advertised as carrier unlocked so if Fi service didn't work, I should be able to use it on Verizon.

Apparently two phone lines require two Gmail accounts and I was supposed to sign up for Fi, then invite Wife.  I tried to set her phone up first, which linked it to my account making it difficult to switch that to her phone.  I also didn't want to completely leave Verizon until at least one phone was working on Fi.  After several hours with support over several days, Support wanted me to abandon my phone numbers and get new ones.  Finally got it mostly working except with Wife's appointments showing up on my phone.  

Unfortunately coverage wasn't very good at work or while commuting.  After giving it a few months, I decided to go back to Verizon.  My computer is Linux.  Verizon's website is virtually unusable with either Chrome or Firefox on Linux.

It turns out that the "unlocked" Fi phone isn't fully unlocked--the Google Fi software  only allows phone calls on Verizon's network but does not allow data.  This caused hours of support with Verizon--got the phone working by switching sim cards from phone to phone, we assumed that data would eventually show up.  It didn't.  The phone could do calling and texting, could not send a picture via text, and anything Internet was wifi only.   I finally did some research and found that this is a known issue with the Google Fi version of this particular phone--Google's software won't let the phone connect data to Verizon's network.  The software can't be changed without voiding the phone's warranty.  Google offered to exchange phones with an identical phone with identical software. I questioned that, since if the software is the issue the problem is likely to remain.  They persisted, I asked if there were other steps to take if the same software caused the same results, they assured me that there was.   The new phone arrived, exact same results and it turns out that the "other steps" was "ask the guy at the next desk". 

I finally unlocked the phone, voiding the warranty and installed Verizon software.  The phone works perfectly--pretty much proving that the problem is neither hardware nor Verizon.