Review of Class #1 of Regulator Service Technician Training - Unrestricted by RSingler

Please register or login

Welcome to ScubaBoard, the world's largest scuba diving community. Registration is not required to read the forums, but we encourage you to join. Joining has its benefits and enables you to participate in the discussions.

Benefits of registering include

  • Ability to post and comment on topics and discussions.
  • A Free photo gallery to share your dive photos with the world.
  • You can make this box go away

Joining is quick and easy. Log in or Register now!

tmassey

Contributor
Messages
746
Reaction score
1,090
Location
Shelby Township, MI USA
# of dives
500 - 999
If you've ever read a review by me, you know it will be many things -- including LONG... Have your beverage handy!

This is in review of @rsingler's recent Regulator Service Technician Training class: https://www.scubaboard.com/communit...rvice-technician-training-unrestricted.605706 Several people have asked for my thoughts, so I'm going to put them here.

A little bit of information about my review of this class. There is one important aspect that needs to be kept in mind. This was the very first class. We were warned up front and multiple times that this was the first class. And like the first pancake, it was probably going to come out a bit gnarly. How do you figure out if the griddle is hot enough or the batter is too thick? You throw a test pancake out there... And once you see what went *wrong*, you make the proper adjustments -- and things get better.

We were that first sacrificial pancake. I fully expect that even the second class will benefit noticeably from our experience. But I can't review the second class: I wasn't in the second class. I was in the first, and that's all I can review. That means that some of my observations are possibly -- even probably -- going to be fixed. No doubt @rsingler has *already* made changes based on his experience and the feedback he's received. But part of that 'fixing' might also come from how you as the student prepares in advance. So even if the same difficulties from our 'test class' don't appear to the same degree, being aware of them may still help you to have a better class.

Finally, I have intentionally not read any reviews by any other fellow students. So some of these points may have been covered in detail, and possible solutions discussed. Or, you may find that things I list as weaknesses were someone else's favorite part! Each person is different, and each person's expectations are different as well. Finally, I've intentionally left some time between the class and writing this review. I find that helps to put things in a little bit better perspective; but it also may mean that some of the details may be fuzzy in my mind -- or flat out incorrect. So if you see something I've written that conflicts with something else wrote, keep these factors in mind.

It seems unfair to write a detailed review of this class. I've described our class as the 'test pancake', but it was more than that. When we signed up for the class, there wasn't yet a class to take -- and we were clearly told that from the very beginning. And even when we were doing the class, it was clear that we were experiencing a rough draft. That means that a lot of elements that you would expect to be part of a class just weren't there: documented prerequisites and requirements, packaged deliverables, even an agenda were sometimes no more than a bare suggestion of what *might* happen.

But to be clear: we were told all of this *up* *front*. We *knew* it was going to be a rough draft. And book critics don't review the rough draft: they review the final draft. Editors review rough drafts -- but they don't do it in public.

So what I will try to do here is document my experience: how I prepared, how I went through the class, and how I might have done things differently in the future. I'm going to try to avoid a great deal of critique of the class itself. I have 'em, but like a good editor, I'll save those for the author! :)

While I do not want to harp on every weakness of the class, I do want to give an honest idea of the state of the class as I took it. In the end, the experience I had was definitely valuable, but also feels unfinished. This left me wanting more, despite the clear value I actually received: like going to a restaurant and receiving a meal that was satisfactory, but just left out too many of the details that make a positive restaurant experience different from just a satisfactory meal. If you are someone who values a rough and raw experience for what it is, without a great deal of polish or hand-holding, then you will benefit from this class. If you are someone for whom a curated experience with consistent attention to detail is important, I would suggest you wait until further iterations of this class have had a chance to build out those details.


There were three significant areas of the class: logistics leading into the class, preparation for the class, and the class itself. Each of them were significant undertakings on their own, and each provided their own value -- and their own difficulties.

The logistics leading into the class were a significant element of the entire class experience. This part of the experience was... a bit intense. This class needs a *lot* of stuff. Regulators to work on. Tools to work on them with. Parts to install and replace. Equipment to tune and test our regs with. And reference material to educate and guide us.

For us, especially in the beginning, there wasn't a lot of specific written direction on this. This lead to a great deal of unique back-and-forth and overlap. This was certainly compounded by, shall we say, highly-motivated students (Who? ME? Tightly-wound?!?) who were both running ahead of the process and just knowledgeable enough to be dangerous. I think we ended up with "Class E-mail #18" by the end, each of which was really its own *thread* of multiple e-mails, and which does *not* include the multiple threads started by me as a student (and, I'm sure, other students). At one point a few days before the class, @rsingler said he had been part of more than 300 e-mails. There's only 10 students... That's a lot of back and forth.

This was clearly an area where being the test pancake lead to some difficulties. No doubt this will be much cleaner in future classes -- it was improving noticeably even by the end of ours.

A very large reason for a lot of this back-and-forth was because there wasn't a lot of fixed requirements put upon us up front. What tools and parts you need is mostly determined by what type of regulators you are working on. Seeing as everyone had a different regulator (or more than one!) they wanted to work on, that meant that there was no commonality, so it's hard to make specific recommendations. (And I'm not kidding: I'm not sure that any two people in our class were working on the same device at any time in the class... Close, maybe, but not quite the same.)

How can you reduce or avoid this? Well, one way might be by limiting the amount of variability -- and that means limiting the variety of regulators. I would suggest sticking to regulators that are *very* similar or even identical to the ones that will be demoed in class. That's a pretty painful restriction if your chosen reg isn't in that limited list, but it would certainly help to dramatically reduce the number of confusing choices before the class -- as well as during. My guess is @rsingler isn't going to require that: he's way too accommodating! :) But as a student, especially a student with limited previous experience, it may benefit you to make sure that the reg you're using is *very* close to what will be worked on in class. And you'll need to determine that early in the process, because literally everything else will flow from that choice of target devices.

No doubt, this will improve for the next class. By the end of the process, there was a suggested tool list, divided up into 'must have', 'nice to have', 'like to have' and 'you have too much money'. That was a *great* list to have -- which we didn't get until *well* into the process. You'll likely have it day one... :)

Target regulators and tools are not the only things you will need to prepare in advance. In addition, you will need to make sure you have an adequate space to work in, and sufficient audio and camera resources to participate on Zoom. This is an area that can be overlooked, and can take away from the experience. For our class, there wasn't much emphasis placed on this. We did have a few opportunities to connect in advance and make sure our conference equipment worked, but there was no real effort to simulate our actual class experience in advance.

On to page two...
 

tmassey

Contributor
Messages
746
Reaction score
1,090
Location
Shelby Township, MI USA
# of dives
500 - 999
The actual Zoom experience is an area where @rsingler really planned and executed this process well. He had multiple cameras available with different angles and magnification as well as a variety of supplemental lighting options. There was really *never* a time where we weren't able to see something sufficiently, which is *amazing* when you think about the wide variety of thing we needed to see: from the condition of a single *tiny* o-ring all the way to the entire room all at once. The audio was clear and echo-free and with a minimum of distractions and interference.

That was on @rsingler's side... As participants, we were less prepared. This is an area where I wish I had done things differently. For example, I had no way of being able to point a camera without using my hands, especially downward onto my workspace. That led to difficulties when I needed help with something I was working on. Users that did have a way of doing that seemed to have a much easier time. Others had issues seeing a different video stream than the current speaker, especially when screen sharing was in place. (There were times where you might need to see multiple camera views at the same time, or a diagram and a camera view: some users could not do this on their setup.) Most of us had multiple devices connected at the same time (a PC and a mobile was a typical pair), but that leads to audio issues if you're not careful.

Even if you have extensive Zoom experience, all of these details can be tricky. I've participated in at least a hundred Zoom meetings, but this class pushed me into situations I had never experienced before. Don't overlook the unique requirements that this class will have. And remember these two rules: only have one device connected to audio at a time (the other *must* have both the mic *and* the speakers muted -- or just don't connect it to audio), and keep it muted when you're not actively speaking! :)

Where should you do all of this from? Wherever it is, you're going to need a lot of space. And the more regulators you're going to be working on, the more space you'll need. At one point, every single device will be torn apart. All of them, and all at once. How much space you have will determine how much space you can give each of them when they're in parts. You really can't have too much space for this class.

In addition, you're going to need different types of space. Not all of them need to be in the same room, but it sure helps. You're going to need space for taking apart and putting together big chunks. For this, you'll need a vise and space to use it. You'll also need plenty of space to clean your parts. This may not be during the actual class time, but it is also something you might want to do during breaks or optional after-class modules. Having it nearby helps to be able to take advantage of odd moments to keep that process moving.

Finally, you're going to need to work on really small, really fiddly parts. There is a discussion of the usefulness of trays: use them, at least one for each device. You'll also need that space to be clean, neat, organized, well-lighted and able to work with your camera at the same time. (A flexible arm mount for your mobile phone can be *very* helpful here.)

Again, how much space all this takes is directly related to how many targets you're working on. A single first and second stage doesn't need that much space: even as little as 8-10 square feet could be sufficient if you're good at keeping things organized. If you're doing multiple targets... you're going to need quite a bit more space. Give some serious thought to how you're going to be able to quickly and seamlessly switch between multiple targets multiple times throughout the class -- because that's exactly what you will be doing.


In addition to the logistics of getting everything in place, there was another (possible) area of pre-class preparation: study. One of the items on the tool list is the book Regulator Savvy. I hadn't read it previously (when I had previously gone out and bought a regulator repair book, I had bought Vance Harlow's Regulator Repair). So I bought it and read it.

The book was a very solid breakdown of the theory upon which our regulators are built, from the earliest and most basic designs (all the way back to the original single-stage double hose regs) to the most recent and complex designs. This includes a great deal of detail on exactly what different pressures are in each area, how those pressures change, and how those changes result in them delivering the air we need as effectively as possible. This includes a fair amount of math -- or at least, detailed numerical information.

In putting this together, I went back and looked at the tool list. The book is on there, but in the "Recommended" section, not the "Basic Tool Kit Items" (think "Required", though I'm not sure that @rsingler will ever use the word "required" himself... :) ). So, you are not required to read the book -- let alone understand it; it's only "recommended".

Because all of that material is also going to get covered in the class itself, but this time much faster, with fewer details and less attractive and effective illustrations (sorry, @rsingler). You absolutely have to have a certain level of familiarity with this information, including at least the general concept of the math and numbers behind it. If you don't, you won't have enough knowledge to be able to understand what's going on inside your reg, which means you won't have enough understanding to be able to identify and fix *problems* with your reg. You need this information.

I would recommend reading the book in advance. You're going to get much more out of the entire class that way. I just wish that meant that we wouldn't then have to sit through literally *hours* of review of material I just spent a week or so learning in advance. By the way, this isn't unique to this class. Virtually *every* SCUBA class I've ever taken that had assigned book work, we then spent literally *hours* reviewing, nearly line-by-line, that same material *in* *class*. It drives. me. crazy.

But again, this is coming from someone who learns easily from a book. Others may find this time spent in review much more valuable. But it's a *lot* of time.

One last aspect to mention before we begin the class itself: how much extra-curricular work should you do leading up to the class? This is a tough one to answer. From my previous regulator service experience, I know that sometimes when you open a reg up, it's in much worse shape than it should be. Plus, I knew how much time it takes to properly clean regulator parts, and I *really* didn't want to do that at 11PM the night between the class. Plus, I was planning on doing a *bunch* of regs, and I would never have time to clean all of them. So I tore apart a couple of my target regs in advance.

In the end, this was probably a mistake. I didn't have enough space or organization for all of this, and it led to problems in reassembly. So I would recommend *against* this. Unfortunately, unless the class structure changes, you will either need to limit the number of regs you do, or stay up *very* late cleaning everything (or do a poor job of cleaning, I guess...). But I think that's better than risking mixing things up, which will make things a lot harder for you.

But I would do everything possible to *prepare* for this process. For example, make sure you have the service manuals for your targets -- and I would suggest printed out, unless you have a screen *dedicated* to them. I would insist that you print out the schematic at least: this is useful for organizing your parts. I also suggest that you have a tray for *each* target device: each first and each second. You will need to move quickly from one to another in various states of assembly. @rsingler recommends food containers, but he's an expert. If you're not, dumping everything into one bin won't help you when you need to remember what is what -- a day later. Have a tray, lay your parts out in a logical order -- possibly right on top of the schematic! -- and keep each one separate and easy to move about.

In addition, make sure you've noted the key functional elements of each target. For first stages, that's IP. Make sure you know what the IP jumps to, and then settles on, and what the tank pressure is at that time. For second stages, make sure you have an idea of how the regulator feels to breathe, especially when it first starts to deliver air to you. You might also want to make sure that the regulator is airtight. Write this stuff down! This is especially true for regulators that aren't your regular ones -- like ones you might have bought on eBay for the class, or pulled out of your 'extras' bin but haven't been used in forever. You will be glad to know what it was doing *before* you ripped it apart...

On to page three...
 

tmassey

Contributor
Messages
746
Reaction score
1,090
Location
Shelby Township, MI USA
# of dives
500 - 999
So, now we're up to the time to start the class. Buckle up, because it's going to be non-stop and fast paced. (Well, that is, after we start with a few hours discussing regulator theory.) The breaks are few and far between -- and instruction rarely stops even *during* the breaks. Make sure you manage your fluid intake: there will likely not be a bathroom break when you need it. (That mobile device comes in handy here... :) ) And for me on the East Coast, lunch was not at lunch time: usually at 3PM. I would suggest that you simply have something you can eat right at your bench without leaving and without making a mess.

Once we get to the point of regulator work, things get even more fast-paced. The instruction never, ever, ever stops. There will never be a point when words are not coming at you. In addition, there will rarely be a point when there won't be things you need to be watching on the screen to go with the words. So, when exactly do you work on *your* device? All at the same time. This multitasking was nearly constant. This was a significant challenge. It was difficult to know when to be working and when to be watching, and this was made worse when your device wasn't the same as his, so things might look differently or need to be done in a slightly different order. If you need to refer to your own service manual during this time... eventually you have to pick which of the competing tasks to focus on, and when you do this you are guaranteed to miss something.

And that's unfortunate, because the instruction that is coming at you is valuable. Service manuals tell you *what* to do. They very rarely tell you *why*, or even exactly *how*. And certain parts can be really tricky: like o-rings buried deep within the body, or squished into seemingly-impossibly-small spots. There's tricks and gotchas for each of these, and @rsingler knows them all. And he's going to give them to you: non-stop throughout the entire process.

One note about the work that's being done here. All of it is being done at a *rapid* pace, and with anything but essentials excluded. For example, @rsingler recommends that you carefully note the characteristics of the device before you tear it apart. (Remember when I told you to do that up above?) But you will *NOT* do that during class. There just isn't the time to do that during class. But when you get to the end and something comes out weird, how do you know if this is a problem you created, or a problem that alreadly existed? Without testing in advance, you *can't*. So do it -- but you will have to do it on your own time.

Another example: @rsingler recommends laying out your parts carefully in your space, and carefully replacing each part with the ones that will replace it. Another experienced "student" recommended using the schematic, which I think is a pretty good idea. But that did *NOT* happen in class: there just wasn't time and space. Well, I recommend that you *make* the space, and use time before the class to prepare for this.

There is a fair amount of 'do as I say and not as I'm going to do'. I recommend that you prepare for this as well as possible in advance to minimize the number of times you have to do that.

Here's a brief idea of the timeline. I'm not going to go into detail here, because I suspect this will change a bit for future classes.

Day 1: The morning was spent on theory. The afternoon was spent on regulator disassembly: firsts and seconds, all types. The goal was to have everything torn apart so that we could clean everything as homework.

An aside: I mentioned I had torn apart most of my regs in advance. Why? Because for me, cleaning takes a long time -- even when everything is visually clean! I estimate I spend an hour for each device (each first, each second) to clean them (usually with a 3- part cleaning process) and dry them. I had 5 devices total, so that's roughly 5 hours... assuming everything goes well. But I also recommend *not* doing that. So plan for a *very* late night. Maybe I'm just a very inefficient cleaner...

Day 2: Reassembly and testing of all five classes of regs, then lots of additional optional information: regulator flow testing, piston rehabilitation and Poseidon.

This is where things get hard. Reassembly is way harder than disassembly! :) This is where having all of your parts well organized will reap dividends. Some of this equipment you will have disassembled 24 hours ago, and a *lot* of the parts look identical -- but are not. It really helps to have your parts laid out, not at the bottom of a yogurt container!

This part created the strongest bit of frustration for me. I *hope* that this part gets tightened up a bit -- I think it will. But I can't just assume it will, so in case it doesn't, I want to describe it here. It was difficult to know when I was supposed to be watching and when I was supposed to be working. There were times where we were told to watch some tricky procedure so that we would not do permanent damage -- which is great! But then we weren't necessarily given time for us to actually *do* that tricky procedure: the instruction would simply go onto the next part. The lack of pauses during the instruction makes it very difficult to keep up with my work without tuning out of the instruction.

In addition, when your regulator had even slightly different parts, it made it almost impossible to know if you were actually pushing ahead or falling behind, and there was almost no guidance to let us know where we should be in the process. There were times where we watched one regulator that we knew was different than ours in key ways. Only at the end were the things that were different briefly reviewed, which makes sense: you can't cover everything all at once. Extensive time was used to go over that first regulator, but because yours was known to be different in advance, you would have to stop at some point. But when those differences were finally covered, it was *way* too late for you to catch up, unless you completely tuned out to the non-stop instruction coming your way. This was most frustrating, because it felt no better than watching a YouTube video: there was little opportunity to get direct guidance for your difficulties. Maybe worse: you couldn't rewind!

Unfortunately, more than once, I was forced to simply abandon the class instruction and simply follow my service manual on my own. And in one specific case where I did not have an effective service manual (SP Mk10 service manuals are basically just a few schematics...), I managed to make a real mess of it.

@rsingler did his best to help me to get over that particularly rough spot. But due to the extreme rush, I had made a critical mistake way early in the process that was completely overlooked, so I never got a working configuration. An experienced "student" helped me through our lunch break (thank you so much!) and we fixed most of the mistakes (yes, there were more than one), but it wasn't until I ended up spending an hour or so after class to completely tear it back apart and put it back together did it kind of work -- but not great because of damage I had (knowingly) done to some of the replacement parts in my extreme haste.

I think the only way to avoid this is more preparation. I had not studied the service manuals in advance. I now wish I had. If I had had more familiarity with the process, I might not have been so lost. (Kind of like why I recommend you read Regulator Savvy in advance, too.) Rarely does more preparation hurt, and in this case, I think the value would have made it worth it.

One other thing snagged me: my IP gauge was broken (reading significantly low), and I didn't identify this until *after* class ended (when I was doing the self-directed reassembly of my Mk10). That meant that I tuned *all* of my stuff to the wrong pressure, and one of the second stages that wouldn't stop freeflowing had nothing to do with the stage itself: when you give it 160 PSI IP, it won't seal! :) Of couse, this would have been identified *before* class had I used the IP to check my pefectly-functioning first stages *before* I tore them apart... Another reason to prepare in advance as well as possible.


I have to admit that by the time we got to the optional material, I was mostly tuned out. The audio was still on and I will still half-listening, but there were too many things from class occupying my mind -- mainly that first stage I couldn't get built. I ended up working through that successfully, as well as identifying my broken IP gauge. I also was able to get my space cleaned back up (parts were *everywhere!*) and mostly put away.

Next up: page four...
 

tmassey

Contributor
Messages
746
Reaction score
1,090
Location
Shelby Township, MI USA
# of dives
500 - 999
Day 3: Self-directed study.

You might say that this was a two-day class. For me, it was clearly a three-day class. First of all, I had to run out and grab a replacement IP gauge and re-tune everything to/with the proper IP. Like I mentioned, I was able to finish up that second stage that wouldn't stop freeflowing. One of the reg sets I overhauled was half of my main doubles reg set. Given the rush of class, I was not at all satisfied that those regs were working as I need them to (to, you know, KEEP ME ALIVE IN CAVES AND WRECKS!), so I also very carefully tested those regs as best as I could -- and scheduled a dive to a local lake the next day to make *doubly* sure before I took them inside a wreck...

That third day was very valuable. It gave me an opportunity to review and re-use the information I had absorbed from the class, and it let me be a *little* more confident in my end result.

A quick summary of what had been accomplished:
* Rebuilt balanced piston first stage
* Rebuit 2 x diaphragm first stage
* Rebuilt 2 x balanced second stages
* Rebuilt unbalanced second stage
* Oh, and cleaned and rebuilt a bunch of hoses
* 3 x LP regulator hoses (O-ring on both ends)
* HP hose (including HP spool) and BCD QR hose (including removing, cleaning, keeping track of and re-installing 3 x tiny little ball bearings and yet another deeply-buried o-ring...)
* Used several new tools I had not previously (Magnehelic, torque wrench, o-ring bullet)
* Learned a few tips and techniques to avoid difficulty or potential damage

That's a *lot* in a two-day class...


If you've slogged through all of that, you might be wondering: do I think the class was worth the cost and effort? That is a very tough question for me to answer, for two reasons. One, what I experienced might not be best described as a "class", and evaluating it that way is somewhat unfair. And two, it depends very much on your level of experience and your expectations for the class.

First, about the nature of the class. Like I said in the beginning, this felt very much unfinished. It felt more like a collection of items that, when properly developed and assembled, could be a class. But it's not there yet. There is a general idea of agenda and order, but only generally. Even *during* the class there were significant changes in order and direction. Again, we were the first class, and we knew that going into it. But what we experienced was not, in my opinion, particularly close to a proper class. In that regard, expectations were set properly for me. I want to make sure that they're set properly for you, too. I think this process is going to need at least another test pancake before "class" is a proper description for this experience.

This is best seen in the materials that make up the class. @rsingler did a great job of assembling tools and supplies in a class "swag bag". It included a small but comprehensive collection of necessary supplies that would be difficult for an individual to acquire affordably on their own, as well as an extensive collection of service manuals. This very much came in handy throughout the class, especially if you don't already have your own extensive collection of o-rings. And during the logistics phase, we received *numerous* e-mails with *numerous* attachments containing lots of valuable information. I estimate more than 50 such attachments.

But outside of this data dump, there was no other class materials. As anyone with any experience with e-mail can attest, e-mail is *terrible* for finding information down the road, especially when the good stuff is locked up in pictures sent as attachments. And when you have dozens of separate e-mails in separate threads, this doesn't get any easier.

We knew in advance that there would be no audio or video recording made available, and nor would the PowerPoint be available. But with a class experience where the instruction and information never ever stops -- and you have a *lot* you need to be doing with your own equipment during the instruction -- there isn't much time or space for note taking, either.

So, in the end, what you're left with is what you can pack into your heavily-multitasked brain during the very long days of the class. This is not a recipe for strong data retention. Plus, if you're like me, it will be a *long* time before you need to re-service these regs. How much will you remember then? Because you will have near *zero* resources to refer to, outside of the service manual you probably could have gotten yourself with or without the class.

I hope and suspect that this will change in the future. But if these seem like obstacles that might prevent you from benefiting from this class, you will want to get some clear ideas of how exactly these have changed in the class you might take.

The other thing that will determine the value to you is your level of experience and expectations. To give you a brief idea of mine: I have serviced a number of very simple pre-2000's Sherwood first and second stages. This was *not* the first time I had opened, disassembled, cleaned, dried, assembled and tuned a regulator. I had reasonable experience with the tools and generic parts. So that's the perspective I was coming from. That meant I didn't need a lot of handholding for the most basic items. I've used a pick, I've worked with pistons, I've tuned cracking pressure. But I'd never done it on "modern" designs, which have a *lot* more parts and details.

Now, I'm not the most sophisticated mechanical person. I do not learn mechanical tasks quickly. But I was *not* starting from scratch. But even with that experience, I could barely keep up. I truly can't imagine how a person with zero experience would be able to do so. If you just wanted to let the experience wash over you, I think it would be an incredibly detailed and comprehensive introduction -- but I don't know how effective that learning would be if you were then constantly pulled in multiple directions bouncing between the demo and your own hands-on.

If you're looking to be given an effective and detail-oriented process for learning how to perform regulator service, I also think that this will leave you wanting. As I mentioned, most of the actual procedures you really should go through to do an effective job -- especially for us occasional shadetree regulator mechanics -- are only covered in summary, not in detail. For example, cleaning is covered, but briefly. Think cooking show: brief steps, with the time-consuming pieces edited out. But imagine you can only watch that cooking show once, and you can't even download a written recipe version of the show! Would you try to make that dish on your own? If not, then this class may not provide you with the best value.

This is the type of area that I hope the class expands and refines in the future. Just like a cooking show is of little value if you can't re-watch it -- and download a more detailed recipe from the website -- a regulator repair class really needs some written resources to accompany the live instruction.

But what if you have some regulator experience -- or you're a very mechanically handy person who doesn't need a lot of handholding? Well, then, this class may be for you. You're going to get a great deal of exposure to a wide variety of tools, equipment, technique and procedures. You'll see the most common varieties of each type of reg, and you'll hear lots of details about a bunch that you might not be able to see. You're going to be told what the manual says -- and you're going to be told what the expert who does it every day *actually* does. This type of information is invaluable, and it's almost impossible to find in one place.

I just hope you can remember it all.

One more page... #5.
 

tmassey

Contributor
Messages
746
Reaction score
1,090
Location
Shelby Township, MI USA
# of dives
500 - 999
If you think that this class is for you, then here are some additional thoughts on what I used and what worked for me. Take them for what they're worth: just one guy's opinion.

Tools: You don't need *nearly* as many of them as you think (or @rsingler outlines). Especially if you only want to work on specific regulators. @rsingler, as a professional, is heavily focused on using the right tool for the job. If you don't, chromed brass is *really* easy to scratch, and sometimes a tiny scratch can destroy the entire reg. That covers things like appropriate pin spanners with the right pin size. However, if they're your personal regs and you're not as fastidious about scratches... you can get away with less precise tools.

The only specialized tool (beside those pin spanners) I think I used was the Scubapro knife piston bullet. My understanding is that this is practically a requirement. I think there's a way to use a dowel or something, but you risk damage to the piston *and* the body. If you have a SP knife piston reg, get the bullet. Other than that, it was just pin spanners, wrenches, hex keys, picks and dowels for me.

A vice is in my opinion a must have. And unless you like needlessly chewing up your regs, you'll need a tool to put into a reg port to hold the reg in place. @rsingler has a neat trick with a bolt if you don't have one; but if you're going to do more than a reg or two, springing for the right tool is probably worth it. But shop around: I found it for half the price of the specialty provider.

@rsingler preaches extensively on the necessity of quality hex keys. He is not wrong. If you're really careful, *and* nothing is not too seized, cheap ones will work. But as soon as you start trying to torque on something (like a DIN fitting), you're gonna see why you shouldn't use them -- and by then it's too late to prevent the damage.

I have no yoke regs, so I leave the fun of finding the right sockets up to you... (Or switch to DIN like the cool kids! :) )

I already owned a set of diving picks: *really* thin brass. They're great -- except when they're so thin you just bend them instead of getting the o-ring out. I also bought a set of gun-cleaning brass picks. They're *much* thicker, which makes getting them into tight spaces much harder -- but makes getting out stiff o-rings out without bending the pick easier. There's room for both. And don't waste your money on the stainless picks if you have the thicker brass picks.

@rsingler's dowels are *invaluable*. They are the second-most commony used tool after picks! :)

Outside of that, I really don't recall using any other specialty tools. You'll want to check your service manuals well in advance and see what it calls for! But jut because they call for the "Magic OEM o-ring puller, lever adjuster and pieceholder tool" doesn't mean you *actually* need it. Of course, that will depend on which regs you are working on.

Target regs: you want to match his as closely as possible. Of course, he may change for the next class! Find out what he will be doing, and match it as closely as possible.

But what if you don't own those regs? I would suggest buying them from eBay. Older models that function nearly identically (usually with a missing feature, not so much a different way of working) can be bought affordably. That also dovetails with something else I would add: I would suggest NOT doing your main regs -- especially if you need them to work 100% reliably within, say, 2 weeks of the end of class, and *especially* if you can't do a very benign test dive when you're done, before a "real" dive! I *really* did not like the sick feeling in my stomach when I was confused as to where I was and what was next, when I was looking down at the pieces of the regulators I actually need to keep me alive with half a mile of earth between me and the sky. It ended up working out, but I still wouldn't recommend it.

For piston first stage, I would recommend a Scubapro balanced piston, such as a Mk10, 20 or 25. Even though I did have a Mk10, the structure of our class did not really give us a demo to actually follow along: I had to do it rapidly on my own, and I screwed it up. But I'm assuming that will not be repeated next class.

For diaphragm first stage, I would suggest an Apeks XTX 100 or 200 (FST or FSR). For our class @rsingler also used a Deep6 Signature. *Neither* of these matched my Apeks DST clone: the swivel, balance chamber and 5th port all work differently. This is where I had to spend *much* of my time simply following the service manual -- and I did not pay for a class so that I could spend my time reading and following a service manual on my own. But if I hadn't, I would not have been able to follow along: my parts were too different for me to understand how to relate to the demo regs.

For balanced second stage, I would suggest a Scubapro G260/G250. My XTX50 clones had at least one difference that stymied me for a period of time -- which required more time with me disconnected from the class studying my service manual.

For unbalanced second stage: do you actually own one? Use it, whatever it is. If you don't already own one, and you aren't going to offer your services for hire, I'm not sure I'd bother. They're mechanically very simple if you ever stumble across one, and unless you buy cheap gear you're probably not going to come across one. But if you still want one, I've got lots of Sherwood seconds I'd be happy to sell you cheap... :)

Preparation: I covered tearing your regs apart in advance. I would recommend against it -- but it'll make for a long night of cleaning. You *might* want to make sure that you can at least get the cover off the second stage (an actual problem in the class) and look in the first stage intake: if it's green there, it's probably green inside and you might need to be more aggressive in advance. But I would work *very* hard on your logistics: make sure your space is organized and as open as possible, you've got enough trays and space for the trays, you've got space and supplies ready for cleaning, you've reviewed all of your service manuals, you've read Regulator Savvy, etc. This class moves *way* too fast: make sure you've done as much in advance to slow down the pace, but without pushing ahead.

Make sure you've tested your regs as best you can in advance, and documented their properties. Yes, you'll know better how to do this after class, but you won't actually be *able* to do it during class, so do what you can in advance. You'll be real glad to know how things were before you started when you run into an issue.

Remember back in the beginning how I told you to really study the service manuals for your regs? I didn't think that would be necessary, but if you don't want to be lost, you're going to want to. The more familiarity you can gain in advance with you current regs (without actually opening them up), the better you will be. Learn from my mistake.

Classtime: Make sure you're set up for as few distractions as possible. You don't want people walking through the space: some of these parts are tiny and will disappear at a hint of movement. You don't want people trying to take your attention: there's already *way* too much demanding your attention. Make sure you are not counting on the class to help you to manage food or bodily function: you're going to need to address these things while the class is going on, or you will miss stuff.


I apologize for the unstructured and unfocused review. I've rewritten and reorganized this a *few* times, and this is the best I could do -- and it's only about 1/3 of what I've written total. The dynamic nature of this entire experience makes summary difficult. Also, I don't want to hate on an unfinished class, but I know that there are a number of people who are very interested in this class. So, I want people to understand how things are right *now*, and how things might evolve in the near future.

I really look forward to seeing this evolve over time. Even in its unfinished state, there a great deal of value within the class, for the right student with the right expectations. I hope this helps you to see if it might be for you. And if its not right for you right now, keep an eye on the future: I'm sure this class will only continue to improve.
 

rsingler

Scuba Instructor, Tinkerer in Brass
Staff member
ScubaBoard Sponsor
Messages
6,148
Reaction score
8,192
Location
Napa, California
# of dives
500 - 999
Thanks for a thorough review! Lots of good input and one thing we will definitely be doing, as @tmassey clearly recognized, is taking a short time Friday eve to open up regs in advance. This can be easy or it can be a real pain, depending upon whether you're working on gear in good condition, or a green, gnarly practice reg from eBay! Early damage is hard to recover from, so taking care of this the first evening will help folks find time to both watch demos and work on their gear in the days that follow. Hopefully not at the same time next seminar! :D
 
https://www.shearwater.com/products/peregrine/

Top Bottom