Saturday, September 3, 2016

Healthways Scuba Star First Stage

A good place to start discussing Healthways single hose regulators is with the one they made the longest and that you will undoubtedly see the most often. And in my opinion on of the best and most versatile they ever  made.
The ties between Healthways and Scubapro is discussed in dozens of places so I won't bother going into the details here but you will quickly recognize similarities.
This blog post is not intended to be a historical account nor a service and repair guide. Links to supporting documents and catalogs are at the end of the blog post.
The Scuba Star First Stage appears in the 1961 Healthways catalog with a Second Stage of the same name. (I'll cover the second stages later) at a price of $32.50.
It is a very simple piston first stage with a few unique features. 1961 Scuba Star Schematic Healthways changed the first stage slightly in 1967. 1967 and later Scuba Star Schematic
The 1961 version contained what was described on Pages 9 and 10 of the Healthways Service manual
as a Depth Compensated Automatic Air Reserve. Which basically amounts to a restricted orifice to be used in conjunction with a K valve or if you are using a J valve the hole in the restricted orifice was larger. Details are in the service manual and part numbers for both are listed on the schematic.
I'm not sure of the differences in size of the orifice nor do I have an accurate way to measure them if I did have both available. In reading the Healthways catalogs and service information it seems the company was obsessed with reserve type indicators of various types.
The orifice, O-ring and filter were retained by a C-clip in the early version of the first stage.
Moving on to the ports on the first stage there is one for the second stage and by looking into it you can see passage directly into the piston area.
There was also a high pressure port for using a pressure gauge but it was not stamped HP on the early version so be sure if you are using one that you look carefully before attaching hoses to the ports. Below is the HP port which you can see passage leading to the high pressure side of the first stage.
Healthways also incorporated an overpressure bleed valve into the third port.

Healthways refers to this valve as a "third stage" in several references in their catalogs and service manuals.
This overpressure device was a very necessary safety feature as many of the second stages used in conjunction  with this first stage were Upstream Tilt valves. (I'll cover later)
One of the shortcomings of the Upstream Tilt valve second stages is that when and if the first stage fails to seat at a normal intermediate pressure there is no way for the high pressure air to get past the second stage and rupturing the low pressure hose will occur. 
The overpressure valves are set to open at a designated pressure and the adjustment screw is staked on two sides to prevent further adjustment. 
In later years Healthways used Downstream valve second stages and this overpressure device was eliminated. You can remove this device and use the port for a safe second stage or inflator hose if you are absolutely sure you are using a DOWNSTREAM second stage. Otherwise keep it in place!

The internals are simple and robust and did not change though the years. Basic piston first stage with a high pressure seat and two O-rings. Intermediate pressure was adjusted by adding stainless steel shim washers at the piston base or base of the first stage held in place by the main spring. 
Healthways recommends an intermediate pressure of  135psi +/- 5 at 2000 psi.

In 1967 the Scuba Star first stage was updated slightly according to the schematic and catalogs. 
The C-clip retainer was replaced by a star retainer, and the overpressure valve and the Depth Compensated Automatic Air Reserve orifice are not shown on the service schematic but are still listed as available part numbers. 

Note: In 1963 Scubapro introduced the MK3 which has more than a few things in common with the Scuba Star. The piston is different but only SLIGHTLY and everything else is mostly cosmetic. Knowing the relationship between the two companies this comes as no surprise but if you tell most divers you are using a MK3 first stage they generally smile and acknowledge you are diving with a great piece of vintage gear....Tell them you are diving with a Scuba Star first stage and most will recoil in horror at the fact that you are diving old dangerous equipment.....It's all in the marketing!

I'm working on first stage service kits for this first stage and should have them in the store soon. Yes I know you can go to the small engine parts bin at your local hardware store and scrounge up some O-rings,possibly flip over the high pressure seat and cut some shim washers from a sheet of tin after you give the metal parts a dip in some magic concoction of cleaner. There is a cheap way to do things and there is the right way to do thing. Rarely do the two ways end up with the same results.

This is a great first stage to learn on and will be a winner to dive with when you are done. They are available inexpensively from a variety of sources.
I dislike UPSTREAM tilt valve second stages by Healthways or any other manufacturer but hook your Scuba Star first stage up with a downstream valve second stage and have a good time.

Reference Links

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Argonaut Kraken as a vacation Kauai!

One of my favorite things about the Argonaut Kraken is what geeks call its extensibility. This means that whatever you are referring to as extensible, typically software, was engineered with future expansion in mind. The Kraken definitely fits that bill, as it was engineered as a vintage style regulator that you can grow with and add things to such as a low pressure inflator hose, a pressure gauge, a drysuit hose, an octopus, etc. Having said that, as a travel regulator for warm waters, it excels in my opinion when it is in its most basic configuration.

My wife and I vacationed in Hawaii for a week. Everyone knows how airlines screw you at the drive through these days with costs, and baggage fees are no exception. For a one week vacation, diving with minimal gear, my wife and I managed to check only one full size bag with all our dive gear, shoes, and beach clothing. We then brought a carry on with our nicer clothes and hygiene items. Try that with two full sets of modern dive gear. Our checked bag was under 50 pounds as well, so we didn't get dinged again for it being heavy. Packing minimal scuba gear saves room for the few comfort things that you do want to bring. As an example, we were both diving high end (read heavy) technical diving computers, so it's not like we were cramming tables into our swimsuits or anything.

It's so simple to strip the Kraken down and make it a more minimal regulator. The last time I dove my Kraken, I was running a drysuit inflator hose, low pressure inflator hose for my BCD, and an alternate second stage. By stripping it down to just the regulator itself and an SPG, which takes all of five minutes with a wrench, I was sure that I could dive vintage style with rental tanks (pretty much no rental tanks come with a J valve anymore), but that I could also monitor my gas supply with a rental tank with a K valve (without a reserve built into it).

The venerable J valve. It's hard to find on rental tanks!

If you couple a minimal scuba regulator with minimal exposure protection in the form of just wearing a swim suit, then you can fit everything you are going to bring in one of those cheap Wal-Mart snorkeling mesh bags. That's actually what we did, and it was incredibly useful. It also allowed us to rinse our gear in the mesh bag at the end of the day, without taking everything out of it.This leaves more time for walking on the beach, telling obscene jokes around people you just met, and drinking more Mai Tais at Dukes.

Diving minimally during your warm water vacation makes life a lot easier. We managed to dive every day except the day before we took our airline home. Our dives were easy, our cleanup was minimal, and our hotel room was not covered in scuba crap. It gave us the time to enjoy a dive or two every day, but then have plenty of time for important things like hiking, coffee tasting, and rum distillery tours. By the way, if you haven't been to Kauai yet you are totally missing out! If you want to see how awesome the Argonaut Kraken works as a travel regulator, then check out our video at the bottom. I set the video to Cemetery Gates by Pantera. Diving usually has relaxing music as a soundtrack, but man we really stomped the guts out of this vacation and got a lot done during a week so we stayed pretty stoked. I think the fish picked up on our energy, but that could just be because I was mostly drunk. Check it out:

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Argonaut Kraken Vintage Style Diving

I had some time after returning from a business trip, so I threw some of my favorite pieces of vintage dive gear, along with my Argonaut Kraken,  into a tough tote and decided to do a night dive with a buddy. Somehow, I also got to watch my wife's yappy Jack Russell. I'm not sure how that happened.

Argonaut Kraken pre-operational checks

After taking the Kraken out of its case, configuring the ports and accessories the way I wanted them, and checking the work of breathing, I went through my dive locker and picked out some stuff for a night dive at Rockaway Beach on Bainbridge Island, Washington:

After getting everything together, we headed to Bainbridge Island, Washington, to go diving at night:

How did everyone else do this week with diving? Let us know what you have been up to!

The Sky is Falling....Vintage Equipment Diving is Dead...Give me a break.....

When I read nonsense like this I always pause for a moment and think to myself:

Do these people have remote viewing ability or the powers of time travel ?

From where I'm at the future of vintage equipment seems pretty promising..

For more than a decade now I have been churning out new parts and services for the vintage equipment community as fast as I possibly can.  The sky is the limit for new ideas I have running around in my head but unfortunately, my financial resources have me restrained somewhat.

Not everything I've made or reproduced has been a success. Having said that, you will never see me moping around the internet seeking either condolences or accolades for giving it "my best shot" Nor will you find me posting about all the great inventions I have that "the world is just not ready for" or any other lame excuses for failure.

The new DSV mouthpiece is kicking my ass trying to get it manufactured correctly but you don't see me whining and lamenting:

Well if you people had only given me a gazillion dollars I might have gotten this lead zeppelin off the ground. This is surely an indicator that no one is interested in vintage equipment diving and unless JP Morgan comes in and gives me a big rack of cash and sets me up in 2000 dive shops around the world I think we better turn the lights out and go back to finger painting...

Instead you will find me laughing at my failures, licking my wounds, raising hell, and getting it done despite all the setbacks.

For the Vintage Equipment Diving is dead crowd spare me a moment and consider this:

When was the last time Vintage Equipment Divers were the feature of an entire weekend festival?
Photo from Sea Hunt Forever March 2016, Silver Springs Florida. Photo by Allan Youngblood.

The Florida Springs Fest committee unanimously decided that the Vintage Equipment Divers would draw such a large crowd that the festival should be made into a two day event.

For the Chicken Little Sky Is Falling crowd spare me another moment and answer this:

When was the last time an Emmy Award winning videographer dedicated an entire episode to Vintage Equipment Divers?

Video Clips from Jonathan Birds Blue World's upcoming episode on the cast of Sea Hunt Forever from March 2016.

Or lets look at it another way:

Click Here to see a map of all the locations the new Argonaut Kraken Double Hose Regulator has been shipped to new divers. 

If I had the time, patience, and resources to pull all the orders for Phoenix First Stages that have been sold since 2006 and put dots on the map where all of them are located the map would look like we covered the world in Swiss cheese!

Divers around the world are enjoying their new regulators.  After diving their Argonaut or Phoenix updated regulator for a while, I'm willing to bet that a great many of them look to the history of the sport and become involved with diving and restoring original double hose regulators and other vintage equipment.  

Since the Argonaut Kraken came out in 2014, I have turned down numerous opportunities from dive shops and other outlets wanting to be distributors.  This has never been my vision for Vintage Double Hose nor any of it's product line.  Would I enjoy all the money? I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't! But I would lie awake at night worried about how other people were taking care of the Argonaut Kraken Divers and their regulators.  As stupid as it sounds, I view every regulator as mine and I adopt them out to new divers with the hope that every dive they do with their Argonaut will be a great one and if it's not I want to be a phone call or E-mail away to help. 

Cave Diving, Tech Diving, Rebreather Diving, Sidemout Diving equipment suppliers all started small and went from homemade manufacturing to some of the largest equipment suppliers in the diving industry today. None of them appeared in hundreds of dive shops overnight. The internet played and still does play a huge part in getting new ideas and opportunities for diving specialty gear out to the public.  But the point is, a few individuals picked up the ball and ran with it. They had ideas for sharing the passions they have for a specific type of diving and the market grew around them. 

In November I'll be rolling out something that I have been working on for over a year. Some will view it and simply shake their heads. Other will say I can't believe that crazy SOB did it!

To wrap it all up I see the cup as half full and the world as our oyster!  For the folks who would decry gloom and doom on our little segment of the diving world I would love to debate the issue with you.

Like Captain Clay Higgins said......I"m easy to find.

Monday, May 16, 2016

US Divers Deep Star Regulator...not a giant crab thing.

     The US Divers Deep Star was an unbalanced, downstream piston regulator. It was the father of the later model Aquarius, and was available in US Divers catalogs from 1965-1969. It had one high pressure port, and 1 low pressure port.

The 1969 catalog photo for the Deep Star, which was 400 dollars in 2016 money.
      It featured the common second stage of all USD regulators made in this time period, which had a 7/8" exhaust value. It had what is commonly called the "short yoke", meant for vintage sized valves. Like many other unbalanced downstream piston regulators, its mechanism is exposed to sea water via the ports on its body.

     I really like diving these little regulators. They are about as simple as a regulator gets, much like the later Aquarius. As a matter of fact, they even share a parts kit in common. If you are a gun guy, then the Deep Star and its descendant the Aquarius would be your truck gun. These regulators make great warm water regulators, backups regs, and are great to keep around for teaching people to dive. As a matter of fact, for years my wife dove either a Deep Star or an Aquarius. She really liked how simple it was, and the fact that due to its design it breathes great on a full tank, then gets a little bit tougher towards the end of a tank. I guess you could say this of all regulators of this design, but on a low tank the lower intermediate pressure almost functions like a sort of warning signal that it is time to go.

     These regulators are pretty common at flea markets and Ebay, and due to how easy they are to work on you can even keep a parts kit in your save a dive kit. I've rebuilt one of these on a picnic table at a dive meet before, using only a wrench, a brass pick, and a multi-tool. I've given them as gifts to my military buddies who were making junior enlisted pay and were stuck in the barracks. Sometimes, simple is really good. Ask a Russian infantryman if he wanted that fancy German Kar98K and its highly engineered gun oil over his crude Mosin-Nagant rifle with kerosene wiped on it after hundreds of Kar98Ks froze shut due to their tight tolerances during the Battle of Stalingrad. Less parts means less to leak, less to break, and less to lose.  I've gotten Deep Stars off of Ebay from the 60s that have never been rebuilt and worked when I put them on a scuba tank.

Here is a Deep Star, rebuilt to original specification, with the later and much more maligned Deep Star II.

In an odd bit of trivia, there was also a movie called Deep Star, as in Deep Star 6. It featured a monster that looked like this:

"Hello sir, do you have a moment to talk about diving history?"
That didn't really have anything to do with this regulator blog, but what the hell it does at least have some diving in it. I'm just happy you got this far. Seriously though, this movie is like Friday the 13th part 6 but underwater and with whatever the hell that serial killer crab/lobster thing is. You should check it out when the weather gets bad for actual diving. It's an 80s horror movie so that alone should tell you something.

Before I get too drunk, let me remind you to join us for discussion of the Deep Star regulator at Vintage Double Hose, the definitive authority on vintage scuba diving. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Calypso Update.....Danger Will Robinson

A big Thank You to Bill and Mike from the Vintage Double Hose website message forum for bringing to my attention a very important recall on all US Divers Calypso first stages dated 09/13/1979.  They sent me copies of the actual recall notice and some pictures to help explain what was going on.  I don't remember servicing any Calypso regulators that did not have the bushing already but there must be a few out there so please be aware of it when servicing your regulator.
I have my sources looking into an exact replacement for the O-ring that surrounds the high pressure seat as they are not any standard size that we can determine. I will add these to the service kits if I can locate them.  I'm also looking for some bushings and will add those to the website store if and when possible.

CLICK HERE to go to the file with the notice and pictures.

CLICK HERE if you would like to join in the discussion on the VDH Website Message Forum.

Friday, May 13, 2016

US Divers Second Stage.....The Metal Years

In 1970 US Divers introduced their new second stage (listed at part #1085 in most service manuals)
This simple, tough and reliable stage would serve them well and is still found on the Conshelf XIV today. 
It was used on all regulators in their line for years with only the sticker on the purge button being different. Internally they are pretty much the same with minor variances to the demand lever. The service procedures for them is found in the manuals along with the first stage they accompany.  This is the fixed blade knife of second stages. It will work with just about any manufactures first stage and can handle intermediate pressures from 110 to 160 psi with no modifications. Have one of these serviced and ready to go in your bag and if your latest and greatest gee gaw fails at the dive site you can attach one of these and go diving without missing a beat. 
In the 1970 catalog it is shown with an unusual angular exhaust T which I have seen very few of. Next came the exhaust T in the picture above which worked great but the compound it was made from went from flexible to concrete in a very short time and about the only way to remove one was to cut it off with a knife.  An updated exhaust T is available which is lower profile and appears to be manufactured from silicone which should remain flexible long after we are gone. 
Servicing the stage is straightforward and over the years I have seen dozens of approaches to doing it all with varying degrees of success.  
You need the ability to hold the poppet still weather you adjust by holding the poppet steady and turn the nut or vise versa.

 Below are a variety of tools that accomplish this. 
Next you will need something to either hold the nut steady or to turn it with.

You will get varying opinions on setting lever height....Manual says one thread from contacting the demand lever. Others say it's good when three threads are exposed past the nut. One thing is certain, once you have the lever height set it's not going to move on it's own.  
Often divers with a slight hiss or leak due to low pressure seat wear on their second stage will simply depress the purge button while unscrewing the volcano orifice, flip the low pressure seat over, re assemble and go back to diving. Not saying this is the proper service technique but it speaks to how resilient and reliable these second stages are.  
One area to look at closely when servicing is the snap ring that retains the purge button. From my observation they seem to rust and corrode faster than other parts on the stage and should be replaced. No one wants their purge button to spring off their regulator while underwater...

Main diaphragms rarely need replacing an usually respond with a good soap and water cleanup. 
Exhaust valves varied several times over the years and some were better than others, the new ones are silicone, work great and come in the service kit. 

The US Divers 1085 second stage can be found around the globe and in mass quantities.  Aside from being used as a backup they are often used as Safe Second Stages and a popular modification was to cut down the exhaust T's making the profile lower and easier to keep stashed until needed. 

Go out a grab a few.....Share with your friends
Be Safe....Have Fun....If you don't know ASK

Pet Peeve 101........The idea that the Bigger the Glob.....Better the Job is good.  Slathering on excess lubricant to parts that do not directly specify doing so is STUPID.  Packing second stage springs with silicone lube or putting it on diaphragms with a butter knife accomplishes one thing. It makes the perfect substance to adhere every tiny micro minute bit of sand and debris to the part.  You are basically making your regulator into a glue board from a roach motel but instead of roaches you get sand and other abrasive material attached to your regulator. 
Don't put lubricant on HP or LP seats, exhaust valves or the sealing and retention edge of diaphragms! It is not some magical substance that by contact turns parts into super sonic Tyrannosaurs Rex Kryptonite.  Just move your finger or brush away from the #10 can of lubricant!
If an O-ring or part calls for lubricant then wipe a little on, wipe 99% of it back off and look at the part. If the surface is shiny then you have enough.  Ok....rant over for now :)