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Random Rushing


So been a while since I BAB but I have not been doing a whole lot. Winter slows me down since both my garage and my workshop at work are unheated and it gets too cold. The wife also dislikes projects inside the house due to a non-linear building time frame that I employ (time itself stay linear but my use of it for building is not).
With Z0.3 (for the confused, Zoey 0 years 3 months) now in her own room I have been requested to build some furniture for her room. I am getting fairly good at my woodworking skills and am BAB to show you these skillz (sucka).

First off I was required to build a small bookshelf with odd dimensions since children’s books are the strangest sizes. The wife then painted and antiqued it to match the crib, pic. . All the edges are routered and a decorative router on the top piece. There are a couple of things I would do differently, I don’t like the way the back attaches the shelf, I should have oversized the top some on the rear to cover the backing and routed the sides so it inlaid better. The paint pretty much makes it unnoticeable, but I still know. My favorite part is the recessed pegs that are holding up the shelves which make it look like there is nothing holding them up. There is a matching shelf that hangs on the wall but I don’t have a picture.

Onward to the requested ToyBox, I decided to get a little fancier here. I tried to make the toybox in the same style as the dresser. This required 2” square supports and a recessed paneling on the sides and front. I glued 2 1x2 boards together with wood glue then planed and sanded them until they looked right. I used my router to put a 1/4“ grove in the supports to lay in some 1/4” wainscoting. I used glue and pegs to attach all the supports together so there are no nails or metal in the construction at all. All in all very pleased with the box, , inside. although still deciding if we want/need a lid.

Almost forgot, I used my new saw on all this a Bosch 4410L 10" dual bevel sliding miter saw . This saw is awesome, perfect cuts, smooth as silk, came with a free stand that extends the supports for long wood. Only issue is the dust collector is the worst I have ever seen.


For those interested Z0.3 is progressing nicely, with the ability to roll currently we are hoping for a mobile Z very soon. Pictures updates are always available at PhotoBucket.

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Camera Rig 

This was a work project but I liked it a lot.

We take pictures of our plates for record of number and size of samples. I originally started with a cheap nikon L10, the pictures were decent but the auto focus would crap out sometimes and the auto white balance was not consistent, about 1/18 were bad.

I finally finished our new version which uses a canon rebel xt with the standard lens mounted to my custom rig. This is mounted under the table so the place where the plate goes is flush with the table. It is made all from surplus 80/20 extruded aluminum I got from Ebay. I created some software using the canon SDK (specifically the EDSDSK) that allows full control over the camera and integrates into our system. The old system used the windows WIA (Windows Image Acquisition) which is supposed to work for a variety of cameras but of course not the canon rebel. We use all manual settings so the pictures turn out the same every time (notice the tape on the zoom lens to keep it at 47mm).

I then created a software program that will compare the picture to the expected number of samples and determine if it matches. I was surprised at some of the tricks you can use to get simple image recognition. This program basically turns the pictures to grayscale then does a few contrast tricks then looks pixel by pixel to determine any value above a certain threshold. I limit the search to the areas I am interested (in this case the wells, not the space between the wells), we then flip it time and date stamp it, compress it and voila. In case you are interested I program mostly in VB.Net, not the fastest language but its easy to program and everyone here knows it.

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Updated Pics 

Updated pictures should be accessed from the same pictures link below if you want to look. Different Albums now...

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Baby Zoey Marie
8lbs 4oz 21.5in long born at 4:16 Friday Nov 15th
Baby and Mother are doing fine.


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Makers Faire 

Have not had a lot of time to do much lately. Wife has me running all over to various appointments or classes or parties but I did take a weekend and go to Austin to the Makers Faire.

The Makers Faire is setup by Make magazine which is a fairly cool magazine that gives different project ideas and technical information. Some of its worthless but they do have some interesting items. I saw that have 2 events one in SanFran the other in Austin. Since my parents live in Texas I figured I would do a quick visit with them and a chance to see the show. On a side note I had never flown AirTrans before, newer planes, no fee for checked luggage, still have drink service, recommended.

Anyways I was unsure what the faire would entail. They had robot combat like you used to see on TV which was cool. They also had a 2 big solid state Teslas that were trigged against music with a bunch of automated drums also computer controlled. Lots of alternative power people there, wind turbines, converted electric vehicles. Austin is apparently a big bike town and they had the Austin Bike Zoo which was a bunch of homemade bike designs, (a lot of artsy fartsy crap but some interesting design work with everything pedal powered like this )
There was a huge area for vendors, lots of chips, CNC machine, robot stuff. I am also into metal working and they had 5 forges running at the show making different sculpture stuff. These were my favorite . A bunch of shows and talks including the diet coke and Mentos guys, a human sized Rube Goldberg mousetrap (like the game) and Mongo the trebuchet. . All in all it was a huge show, lot more people than I expected especially with a UT game going on downtown and it was fun.

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Sherman Stats 

I loaded up the cooler with some pre frozen bottles and some bags of ice cubes. I tried to buy some block ice but was thwarted. This is the graph for the back of the truck

The outside temperature… (Note the time scales do not match)

My max delta T was 19F which I am very pleased with (this includes a heat input of 3 dogs, heat transfer from the bed of the truck and sitting in the sun). What I am not pleased with was the number of refills needed. What I really need was the entire cooler full with block ice this would give me a lower max delta T but a longer release time. If I had thought of it earlier I would have filled and frozen a bunch of 2 liters and milk jugs and used those.

One anomaly I would like to explain between 3:30-4:30 when we were stuck in traffic in Nashville. I was trying to figure out why there was such an increase in temperature. On the way back I had Erin drive while I road in the back with the dogs to feel what it was like. I noticed that the fan started and stopped. Turned out when you have the lights on and hit the brakes it turns off the taillights and lights up the blinker lights for brighter brake lights. Since we were in traffic I had the brakes held on and the damn cooler stopped running. The fix for this will be to rewire the turn signals into the system and insert diodes to prevent all lights from coming on.

I sat in the back for a while and noticed that even at 85F in the back it seemed much cooler because the humidity was decreased. Overall fun experiment even had some people ask about it when we stopped for lunch, interested in how much it cost to build and how well it worked.

On a side note I used this to record the temperature/ humidty in the truck. I have to say this thing is awesome; I use it all the time at work and have brought it home for use on numerous occasions. Plus it only cost 80 bones.

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Been a while since I BAB but I have been doing stuff so I should have a couple within the next couple weeks.

This project, hence forth known as Sherman, came from the need to cool the back of my truck. I have a camper on the rear of my mazda b2500 (compact pickup) and we travel with the dogs in the back of the truck. This gives the dogs lots of room and plenty of fresh air when needed. The problem is its 95 degrees now and air flow is not enough especially if we get stopped in traffic, so Sherman is born.

This started off as a basic swamp cooler design which was quickly thrown out, we have as much humidity as heat. So my next thought was a cooler filled with ice/water and a pump that recirculates water through a radiator and has a fan attached to blow cool air out.
I started looking on the internet and found that this company Artic Air sells some units for airplane cockpits. This design not only used the radiator but drew in air from the chilled air inside the cooler to blow out. I initial thought this was going to add humidity to the chilled air but apparently the water vapor recondenses on the radiator when blown out.

So here is my version which I named Sherman . The inside looks like this. Parts are a bilge pump, a transmission cooler radiator and an electric radiator fan (10"). The cooler I got free from work and I used particle board for the cowling.
Everything is wired together with a 5A fuse and connects though a flat four trailer hitch adapter. When I turn on the lights Sherman turns on. It draws 4.5A which I was worried about blowing the fuse for the lights but I hooked it up and it worked well. From what I read normal trailer lights pull 2A per light + 0.5A per turn signal, so I should be fine.

Next blog I should have cooling data from the device in the back of my truck and I will yet you know how well it worked.

(It's named Sherman after the tank)

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The arcade is finally finished (Well mostly finished, I ordered some cup holders to put on and it needs to be moved to its final location).

Its running WindowsXP with MameExtended (.124u4) which is an unofficial build of MAME that has added support for hiscores, filters and artworks. I ditched the GameEx front-end I was looking at before because the interface on both emulators was easy to use and I did not need the other functions of GameEx. I also ditched the 22" monitor for a 27" TV that I bought off of craigslist. I ended up having to cut the back of the TV off because it was about 1" too deep.

I am especially proud of these 3 buttons . The red one is power, starts everything and turns off everthing with 1 button. I am using a SmartStrip, which basically monitors the "Control" outlet for current draw and turns on or off the switched components. So I have the computer hooked to control and everything else hooked to switched (speakers, fans, marquee lights, power button lights). The only modification I had to do was to the TV which will not power back on by its self if the power is cut off. Some TVs are programmable to do that, this one was not. I was originally going to modify the remote control to push the send on/off signal but I suck at soldering on boards and I messed it up. I got it working again by switching the power to the remote and hardwiring the button but it was very clumsy. I found another solution that was extremely easy, If you hold down the power button on the TV during startup the TV starts up, button does not reset until you release it so you can hold it in as long as you want. I used a screw to hold it down. Sweet.

The other 2 buttons are for Exit (Esc) and Pause (P). The controller does not have that interface built into it and it's a pain to open and close the drawer to quit a game or pause a game. I took apart a keyboard and pulled the guts. If you have never opened one before they have 2 membranes laid on top of each other connected to a board. The 2 membranes create a matrix which lets the board know what has been pressed. The board has 13pins and 13 pins which make up all the buttons on the keyboard. I wired the pins I needed to the buttons and voila I have and Esc and P button.

I have a marquee and the woodworking guy is still making the holder for it but it lights up nicely on the arcade. I had it done at http://www.emdkay.net/, and they did a great job.

One thing I would avoid is buying the acrylite for the bezel. I ordered the Acrylite F-99 which is supposed to be "museum quality" UV protected non-glare plexiglass. Apparently the non-glare comes from a matte finish which reduces sharpness as well as glare. It works ok but I would buy non-glare glass if I did it again.

I did spend a little more that I thought I would. I have about $600 in it now, not including the computer and parts I already had. The controller was $179 and the TV was $95, MDF was about $100 and then everything else was nickel($20) and dime($50) stuff. Overall I have happy with the way it turned out and its fun to play.

Thanks to SS I had about 300 games to mess around with. Some people were asking for specific games so yesterday I download a torrent that was 16GB and had 5000 games, that should cover everything.

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moto bike 

For awhile now I have been looking for a older (70s) enduro motorcycle to putt around on back and forth to work and such (I had one growing up and loved it). Most of the pricing I have found to be higher than I wanted to pay or at the price needed too much work and parts. I had given up on this idea until my dad came back from Costa Rica. Apparently there is a multitude of dual sport bikes down there, they get good gas mileage, work on road or off, maneuverable and are cheap. My dad being my dad stops and talks to a couple of the guys with the motorcycles trying to figure out who makes them. Comes to find out they are mostly Chinese.
So I start researching Chinese dual sport bikes and find that there is a huge amount of junk out there but there are a couple of brands that get consistently good reviews. I picked one that everyone seemed to respect and it turned out to be a Lifan. I ended up ordering from a guy online that also got good reviews (Check out http://www.chinariders.net/). It cost about $1400 delivered which if you have ever priced bikes likes this is about 1/3 the price of a japanese bike.
Well some assembly required, no problem I like working on stuff. Hmm, no directions, okay no problem I know what this thing is supposed to look like. So now I have a handful of leftover parts, spares maybe? After a couple of misadventures (some of those parts were not spares and were required for the rear brake) all is well, bike runs great. I took off the stickers and repainted a couple of sections to my liking. Bike turned out to be exactly what I was looking for (it’s a Lifan LF200GY-5(200cc) if your interested).

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Outdoor 2 Update 

It finally stopped raining long enough to put my arbor in the ground. The rain did make it easier to dig the holes with my new post hole digger.
It is surprising sturdy, the posts are sunk 1 ft into the ground and have a dirt/dry cement mixture that I refilled the holes with, this will harden up over time as the cement pulls moisture out of the ground. Trick I learned for laying out flat path way stones to keep them stable, without making permanent concrete.

Only need to make the path to it and I'm done. Go vegetables.

Well almost done, I am setting up a rain barrel water catching system. So far I have the barrel and the device to fill it, I have a pump from harbor freight I just need to run the lines for the drip irrigation to the garden and figure out where to mount the pump. I got the barrel setup before a big rain, 55gal filled up in less than 30mins.

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Go me 

I built a baby. Ok I started building a baby, wife is probably going to finish it.

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Its alive 

The CNC machine lives and is operational. I decided to get rid of the die grinder and put on a Rotozip. This way I don't have to use a collect adapter since the Rotozip has a keyless chuck. I also hooked up the V-Clamp (see CNC Update1) and I am using it hold pieces on the worktable. Both items seems to be working well. I cut some wood, some ABS and some acrylic with it on Friday. Here is the machine in action. I was cutting out a template that when finished will make a 3d puzzle of a butterfly.

It is finished, actual time only took about 30 minutes once I figured out what speed to I could run at. I did not cut deep enough though so I had to finish the last 0.5mm by hand; fairly easy though since I was using 3mm Birch plywood so most of it was cut already. Of course I messed up a couple parts with the knife/dremel pulling it out. Next time I know the settings I need. I am thinking about a dinosaur this time. All in all it came out pretty good considering I don't really know what I am doing. Oh yeah here is a picture of the butterfly. I think my wife is going to paint it and seal it to put out in the garden.
Also this is a link to the dxf file , its an excellent getting to know you CNC piece, since you should setup multiple layers for outside cuts and inside cuts in order to get the slots to fit correctly. Of course I did not so everything was a little loose, but I know better next time to think about these things before jumping into cutting.

I got my dxf file from http://www.cnczone.com . If you are interested in building a CNC this is a great place to get information. It can be done on the cheap and still get pretty good results.
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Various Outdoors 2 

So the wife had me busy outside last weekend since it was such nice weather. I built 2 flower boxes in the corners of our property for some hibiscus bushes than my dad gave us. Apparently I am into various geometric shapes, currently I have a pentagon, a rectangle and an attached square (to the rectangle). I built a triangle and a I guess what we are calling the boomerang. It could be referred to as a irregular hexagon, whatever. These were made with standard landscaping timbers.

We also created our garden based on the idea of square foot gardening. Basically it is for creating gardens in a small space, uses less water, allows easy access to all the plants and is easy to create. We built four 4'x4'x12" squares using a kit from framitall. You can buy the anchor joints and supply your own wood or just build your own without the joints. I liked the composite plastic timbers because you never have to worry about them rotting (so they should last forever), don't leach like pressure treated and they use recycled plastic (slightly higher priced than cedar but cheaper than the plastic timbers at Lowes). I also built a center dual layered 3'x3', 2'x2' for strawberries out of cedar. The plan is to create a path inside the giant square and build a small arbor at the front entrance. I think it will look real nice and we get fresh vegetables. Yum

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Mold & Cast 

I recently found the need to mold and cast something, I needed a gear for this drive mechanism that had broken, I had 3 but needed a 4th.
Anyways I had seen plaster of Paris molding and know it to be slightly annoying due to originals and parts sticking in the plaster. I have seen some easy to make vacuum systems that use a household oven (wife probably not happy with that option). I ran across this website while looking and found the silicone rubber for the mold and urethane for the cast.
Now I have never done anything like this before and was more interested in the process than the actual product, I mean this could be useful at work for parts I need for instruments they don't make anymore. It actually turned out to be one of the coolest things I have ever seen. I will go over the proces below:

1. Make a frame to hold the part preferably not much bigger than the item ( I used MDF).
2. Hot glue every edge that will touch the mold (So it does not leak)
3. I hot glued the gear to the base but it is not necessary
4. Stir the silicone Rubber a lot, Shake the catalyst
5. Add the rubber and the catalyst together and stir until it turns a beige color.
6. Pour the liquid mixture into the box.
7. Wait overnight
8. Break open frame and take out original (This is the great part you just push and pull the rubber/part until it slides out.)
9. Alright this is the trickier part I used to the Alumilite Regular which has a 90 sec hold time. Shake the "B" container (This is a blend of polyols)
10. If you are using a dye add it to the "A" side (Isocyanate)
11. Add equal parts of A and B to a secondary container and stir quickly for 15secs
12. Pour the liquid into the mold
13. Wait 5 mins.

A little Chemistry...
Now the mold/liquid is going to get hot as this is an exothermic reaction. The first time I did this I it was in the back of my mind that this was a polymer reaction and I remembered doing a polymer reaction in PChem back in college (God, I hated PChem). What I remembered about that lab was the near instantaneously of the reaction, had this been at the front of my mind I might not have ended up with this..
A urethane linkage is produced by reacting a isocyanate group with a alcohol group. So to get a polyurethane you need a polyisocynate (usually diphenylmethane diisocyanate) and a polyalchol (usually polyproplyene glycol) (Plus some catalyst [an amine like triethylenediamine], maybe some chain extenders, cross linkers etc. depending on the type of polymer you are looking for) Basic reaction looks like this

The original part looked like this.

I don't have any picture of the frame but this is the mold it produced.
The end result looks like this.

Pretty damn cool.

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Arcade Machine 

So I started a new project a couple of weeks ago, parts are starting to come in and I currently have all the hardware
I decided to build an Arcade Machine. If you have ever looked at PC Arcade games before you know there are emulators out there that allow you to play older arcade games. The software is called MAME and there are a couple of different versions out there MAME ,MAME32 and others to play nintendos, playstations etc. I think I also am going to run a front-end called GameEx which seems very nice.
Anyways I was going to build my own controller setup and I priced it out 6 buttons apiece, 2 joysticks, 1/2 player buttons and a card that converts to usb. What I ended up with instead was this which actually cost the same I was going to spend and comes with the trackball for games like missile command.
I was also going to build the cabinet myself but I have a guy here at work that is a woodworking whiz and he is going to build it (own his own dime since the machine is going to stay at work).
I got a 22" flat screen CRT monitor from another guy at work who did not want it anymore. It weighs almost 70lbs since it’s an older style but resolution upto 2048. Slightly injured but functional.
I have so many leftover computer parts that I had enough to build a decent machine for the project P43.0, 512Mb, 40GB, 128mb Graphics Card, On board Sound.
I am currently working out software, hardware, controller issues and I will update when I have a cabinet.
I am hoping the end result will be similar to this. (thats only a 17in monitor)

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Pictures update 

So my picture frame / wireless laptop thing is working great but I decided that I did not want the screen up all the time because of burn in issues. I ended up with a wireless USB trackball that I can hit a button on and take power saving off on the laptop whenever I want. I was looking for the smallest wireless system I could find and I think I found it. The unit is barely 1.5" square by 1" deep. The depth comes from the receiver which is meant to be worn on your wrist while the trackball is supposed to be attached to your finger and your thumb rolls the ball. Quite possibly the dorkest looking think I have ever seen. I reconfigured it to be more compact.
It works perfect for this application, if you are thinking of using it as a normal use trackball I would skip it though, the trackball is very jerky and imprecise.

On another note I have restarted the CNC rebuild and I am in the middle of procuring 100lb slab of aluminum to use as the new base.

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Yeah, Yeah I know it was been a while but I am back.

My latest project is fairly simple. I created a webpage on our intranet at work to check the status of all our instruments. They are updated in real-time so you can look at the page and if the instrument needs attention it turns yellow, if it has an unexpected error it turns red and it shows you what’s running and when it started and other interesting things.

Anyways I usually pull it up on my desktop but I lose it frequently because I run dual monitors and have open apps everywhere. I decided I needed a dedicated screen in my office for it so I went to trusty eBay looking for a cheap laptop. I found one for $50+$15S&H, PII 266Mhz, 128mb, 6Gb HD, 13.1" screen. Because this thing is older than dirt I did not want to bother with a windows install and went looking for a Linux kernel that would run on this system. What I ended up with was Puppy Linux, which I have to say is awesome. It will run completely in memory in 64Mb Ram only takes up 100mb disk space and has apps to open work/excel/music/video/internet built in plus you can install lots of other stuff to it if you want. If you have any desire to remake an old pc this OS is excellent.

Once I got the laptop up and running, including install a wireless PCMCIA card I disassembled it and got rid of all the extra parts to save weight and room. I went to Michaels and bought a shadow frame box and a picture mat (had to be cut some to fit the screen) and mounted everything inside. This is what the end result looks like.

So now I have a 13" digital picture frame with wireless internet access for 75(comp)+15(frame+mat)=$90. Sweet.
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Various House 2 

I was looking over this blog and saw that I was definitely behind on house projects being updated to the blog. So lets see what I/Wife has been doing lately.

First off is the retaining wall which is complete and planted. It took 5 yards of dirt and 3 yards of mulch, one load at a time in my little truck but the result is very nice.

We redid one of the bathrooms with this slate tile floor and another bathroom with this hand scraped bamboo.

The latest thing I built for Erin was a garden cart that she could roll around and do her planting on. This is it folded up and this is it unfolded. I really like the giant wheels, I got them at harbor freight really cheap. The rest of the lumber was from a workbench in the garage that I took down and rebuilt using a door from work.

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Alright, so I have not done any projects recently but I have excuses, lots of them.
First off it has been way too hot to do anything productive, we had two weeks where the temps were 102-106. There is no air conditioning in my garage nor in my work's shop area. The pool was even up to 95 for a while.
Then for most of the month of August I was on vacation visiting various parents and parents in law. I tried windsurfing while down at my parents. It was not quite as hard as I thought it would be but I was seriously sore the next day.
Also I bought one of these while visiting the in-laws, but one of the cheaper ones that I could not find a picture of, so that should be interesting. I was originally looking at one of
these but they were $17,000. Way too much.

It has cooled down considerably here and looks like the start of project building season. Hopefully I will have progress to report on various items soon.

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Various House Projects 

I have found it hard to really get to any projects lately. I think my main problem is this sitting in my back yard. It just seems hard to get up the energy to remove myself from the pool. Oh well.

Projects around the house though are pushed through by my overeager wife so I have made some progress on those fronts. For your perusing pleasure continue on.

First off is the flowerbox/pentagon flower bed built from left over wood beams when we bought the house. This was a simple project that got rid of random junk lying around and provided places to plant things.

Second was the flowerbox/lattice assembly. This obscured the neighbors view into our pool and again provided places to plant things.

Third was a retaining wall behind the pool. This was needed because the stones in the back were constantly being pushed into the yard by dogs and weather. Its not quite finished yet but is on going. This also provides planting space (see a pattern here)\

Fourth was some shelving for the garage. Nothing fancy just shelves.

Fifth was a desk built into a small nook. I got to use my new router and router table on this project. It turned out surprising well for my first time with the router.

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