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Random Rushing DOMOTICS X10 home automation equipment but never really liked it, too finicky, especially connects that had to be on the same phase and noise issues. Well I finally dove into the Samsung Smartthings Hub since it had both Zigbee and Z-Wave antennas and had a good following online with a substantial code base for custom devices and routines.

I set up this system and immediately out of the box had connection issues with the devices that came with the unit, they connect fine but loose connection over time requiring me to reset them to be seen again. Decided I wanted a more robust system for lights and used the Lutron Caseta system. This connects into the smartthings hub externally but can be used when the internet is out or network is down since it has its own hub. The Lutron system is perfect, no failures always connects dimmable, smartthings integration is good. These just replace interior switches and allow external control. Recommend.

I then added in this Konnected Device which allows you to take your old wired alarm system and convert it into a smarthings recognizable device. Really like this one too, you can string multiple together and have as many zones as you want. I then added some door and window sensors from Visonic to use in place of the wireless sensors that were from the alarm system. Those all work well too. I am aware that using the smartthings hub as a home security system is inherently insecure, I am more interested in the automation attached to door/window openings and closings. Also I have 2 large dogs and basically never leave the house since I work from home.

Wanted to control my garage door and have it autoshut at night it if was open, had a hard time finding what I wanted. Just a simple zigbee or zwave controlled relay that could handle dry contact. Finally found the qubino and mounted it in a small 3d printed holder and am using one of the Visonic sensors to check the status of the door. This relay is hooked serial into the normal button for the garage door. Works great.

Needed new smoke detectors as mine were near the 20yr mark and replaced them with First Alert zigbee enabled detectors with CO detector. So I can get alerts about fire or CO and see battery life.

Bought these Centralite Thermostats to control upstairs and downstairs HVAC units. I have both run with the C wire to provide power but you can run these on just batteries too which I did for a while in testing. I like this units because they are simple, basic controls on the unit, no programming or schedules totally controlled by the smartthings hub. Biggest Plus if I lost internet I can still internally control routines unlike some of the fancier units. Had to 3d print a surround so I did not have to paint the walls.

Basement runs a little cool in the winter so I have a Aeotec switch and multi sensor that control a cheap panel heater, that way it does not over heat or under heat. Both devices are excellent, the sensor gives temp, light, humidity, vibration, and UV along with motion sensing, the switch works great

As you can see I am starting to get a lot of devices here, and I could not control everything exactly like I wanted with the built in routine and even some of the custom routines. Here I turned to Webcore, This sits on top of the smartthings ide and allow you to easily program across all your devices to achieve an outcome. For example I have a leak detector setup in the pan of my upstairs AC, if it detects a leak, it sends me an alert, shutsdown the AC unit, turns on the main fan to help circulate heat to keep the upstairs from getting too warm. I stopped messing with the smartthings ide except for the simplest things. This is an example of a really simple program for closing the garage door.

I also decided I needed non phone access to to devices while in the house so I bought these Amazon kindles, 3d printed a mount and converted the old 12V power from the alarm panel to a 5V for the Kindle. These run ActionTiles which allow you to setup custom screens and control your smarththings devices. Also recommend if running these kind of screens. Did not find it useful on the phone.

I have some other devices, leak detectors, light bulbs, motion sensors, switches. One of the more useful for those is turning on the lights to the garage when sensing motion at the door. We also ran the grow lights/seed mat for seed starting the garden plants on a sunrise to sunset schedule that helps mimic actually growing season for the plants.
As I was going through cataloging this I see that I have more devices than I thought, looks like a little over 40 separate devices. Its gone pretty well though, its fairly non intrusive and things have been purchased so that in event of failure everything still works. 1 exception being the lights I have built into the bottom of Z10.7's loft. They run on zigbee which is a 2.4Ghz signal, which of course gets interfered with by wifi routers (the channels are locked on the smartthings and I moved the router to a different channel but still have issues). The lights are the furthest away from the router and drop off a lot. Zigbee's create their own mesh network but certain devices wont. The smoke alarms are zigbee but do not re-transmit for battery life and speed of signal reasons. A lot of my other equipment is Z-wave, so I recently bought a zigbee switch to act as a mesh extender, hope it works.

Breaking wind

This is one of the trees, 3 in all were messed up. These are all Bradford pears trees; they were planted because they are grow quickly and just about anywhere. Problem is the way they grow they have these weak forks that are susceptible to storm damage.
As I was contemplating hiring someone to take these trees down, I remembered that we were getting ready to buy a bunch of mulch. Looking at this fallen tree I started to see my mulch. I rented a 6Ē chipper.

This is quite possibly the most dangerous piece of machine I have ever taken apart or used. I got this think home started it up and it started bellowing smoke. I called the rental agency and they said to bring it back for a refund, problem is it took me 45min to go pick the thing up, now I have to do this twice to return it. Hell with it, so I opened it up, it had a centrifugal clutch that was supposed to cut in at a specific rpm but something was not letting the belt turn so it was just smoking the clutch. The chipper blade was a 2ft diameter flywheel with 3 blades on it. I donít know how much it weighed but it was about 2Ē thick solid steel. Maintenance on this thing was nonexistent. A 6 ft breaker bar eventually broke loose the fly wheel allowing the clutch to fully engage and start running.
You hear jokes about feeding people to the chipper feet first, I will tell you that would be a horrible way to go. It has this spring loaded feeder, that looks like a big rotating gear, as the log goes in the feeder rises up to accept the diameter of the log and pulls it in until it hits the fly wheel, repeat until the log is gone. Putting the log/branch in causes it to twist randomly slapping you with branches or ripping it out of your hands, each time it hits the flywheel it does the same. And man does it shoot those chips out, stood in front of it for a second to see, it hurts. I donít wear much protective gear, but I suited up for this one, thing was ridiculously loud as well

This is tree gone

My pile of logs, just because who doesn't need firewood.

And my trailer of mulch.

Renting was not cheap, and it was a lot of work cutting the tree into pieces the chipper could take as it could not handle forked branches well. Running the chipper was a pain, literally. Overall, I estimate I saved about $300. Basically, the cost of the mulch. Would probably pass next time.
Ninja Cube I decided on a Ninja Warrior like course so when she got bored with it, I could still use it for some strength training and things. I also really wanted a climbing wall on it but the I donít like the really short ones so I knew this would have to be tall.
I envisioned Phase 1 as a cube with monkey bars, climbing wall, cargo net climbing, peg board, swings, rope climb, mini balance beam with ability to add on some options later. Phase 2 would add the deck on top w railings and attachment of a zip line. All capable of handling multiple kids or full size adults.

So, the first thing I did was buy a trailer (ignore the base its sitting on, different post). Now I needed a trailer anyway but this was a good excuse. I really like this trailer, it is an 18ft tandem PJ trailer with removable sides that turn into a ramp and another rear loading ramp. I needed this because the main 6x6 vertical beams are going to be 16ft, and the top 4x6 beams are going to be 16ft as well. Hard to carry in the truck.

But first I had to dig the holes, I rented a towable post hole digger to make this easy. had a 14Ēx48Ē auger and I spent 6 hours of this thing kicking my ass digging 4 holes. The main problem here is that I live on an upper plateau and there is rock shelf all around. Hitting the rock dead on was not too bad, but on 2 of them I somehow got wedged around the edge of a shelf and could not get that thing out. Eventually I got everything dug to at least 40Ē and was ready to go.

Patience is not really my thing. I am all ready to put these posts in the ground but my spouse is off with the kid somewhere. These 6x6x16 pressure treated post weigh about 175lbs each. I am not exactly sure how I got them in the ground by myself, but it involved some levers and some pole vaulting like techniques.

Suffice to say I got them vertical and framed, so I could pour in the concrete. The posts are separated by 10ft. Then I added some structure to the top 4x6x16 to add a cantilever structure for the swing/ rope climb. Cross beams are 2x8x10.

Got a little further along here, you can see the climbing net up, peg board, monkey bars, rope swing, rings. You can also see the support bracing for the main 6x6 posts along with the compressive strut for the cantilever. Z is painting the climbing wall. A word about the climbing net, normally on play sets they are rope walls, I looked at the price of those things and was shocked for the size I was looking for an outdoor rope it was over $400, I found surplus aircraft cargo net with D ring straps and even 4 ratcheting pulleys for $89. Sold. Monkey bars are galvanized pipe, cleaned and coated. Peg board is literally a board with holes drilled in it and wooden pegs. Had to buy a drill bit for that to get exactly the correct size hole.

I did something a little strange with the climbing wall, imagine that. Its ~11ft tall, but I felt that we would outgrow that too soon, so to make it more difficult I added the ability to lean the wall over so that it required more grip. I did this with a come along pulley and then used chain as a backup system to insure it did not crush anyone. That feature has yet to be used, rock wall climbing was harder than expected, especially with the tiny holds.

This is the end of phase 1. The Deck on top for phase 2 is done and is great because it provides some shade while playing. We added some ninja course stuff inside, the kits you can buy at the sporting goods stores. Overall, I am super pleased with how this turned out. Z likes the rings the best, and we have setup a little course that you can be timed on without touching the ground going around the entire thing. The cantilever has turned out well, I like the swing where you can go any direction and you can't cheat on the climbing rope. There is very little flexing or movement in the entire structure. The one point of exception being the 4x4 where the monkey bars are located, should have used a 4x6. Its less than a 1/2" deflection when Z and I both jump on the middle but I don't like the way it feels. Peg board is ridiculously hard.

Poppin a wheelie manual a bike, really a wheelie that you don't pedal just use balance, so I built a device out of scrap wood

so I could practice getting the balance right. Basically, something to stabilize the bike then a strap to stop it from going back too far. Seat is off to make it easier to figure out balance. I was a lot closer on a 26" wheel bike but the 29" I cannot seem to get the balance right.

I was practicing in my garage for a little while every day. The only problem was that since itís not tied down and the floor is slick the entire device and bike slide some. Right in front of where I am practicing is my miter saw, well on one attempt I slid forward too much hit the table saw and fell off to the side. I hit my leg on the seat post opening.

This is hard to see in scale but that is my thigh upside down, I'd say the bruise is around 7" in diameter. Pretty sure I hit my femoral artery and just had a minor bleed. I normally donít bruise and I did not hit the bike that hard. Also still canít manual worth a damn.
A River Runs Through It
On a medium size rain, we start to see this

When it rains really hard we get 4-5 inches of water standing next to the house and a bunch of water in the yard next to it.

I knew we needed a drain but thought we could make it into a feature instead of just an underground drain line. I ended up renting a mini-excavator to dig a trench. That thing was unexpectedly difficult to operate, but super fun. We ending up making the trench and lining it was TN flat stone and river rock then taking out all the grass, even made a little bridge across.

Then had the a pad poured underneath the deck

This is the trench trench during a rain. The video is from before we finished with the rest of the landscaping. It does even better now with no standing water anywhere.

All of this water ends up in the water garden area and outflows into the lawn

The design is a L shape basically the size of the beds

Secured to walls, 4 4x4 beams, 2x8 trusses. The lone unsupported 2x8 uses lag screws and a heavy duty metal 90 joist holder. Slightly beefier bed supports as well than recommend for normal bed supports. Not even a budge when multiple adults and children up there.

Trimmed the sides and bottom and added in railings. The blue glow if from the 2 lights that are built in to the loft to allow for reading under the loft. The color and brightness are changeable via the smartthings system we have setup in the house.

Finished with ladder on one end and bookshelf stairs on the other.

The top even has outlets and a space for alarm clocks, books and a lamp

Again used the Kreg joiners for lots of the work. Everyone seems happy with it. The lights on the bottom have an annoying problem that if the smartthings reboot the lights come on full blast. I have a routine to deal with this now but the smartthings is another blog.

Supermax Garden
The first is our raised bed gardens. We live on a couple of acres in the middle of nowhere, so garden eating invaders are rampant. In order to counteract this, I devised the MAXIMUM SECURITY inspired raised bed gardens. I donít have many build pictures but here is the earliest. This was my first real use of the Kreg Jig system, which I really like, makes it easy to make pocket holes and makes a nice strong connection.

4x4 outer posts, 2ft tall corrugated sheets in a 2x4 wooden frame, on the bottom of each bed is a wire mesh to prevent digging intruders but still allow drainage, the sides are 6-8 ft of chicken wire. The beds are 2ftDx12ftWx2ftH filled with about 15 yards of dirt. The chicken wire also acts as a nice support for vines like peas and beans. We also put a 8ft galvanized stock tank in the center for more plants. I like the depth of these raised beds, makes it easy to pick and I think holds water better, gives the roots plenty of space.

My door frame around my lowes bought screen door has warped a crazy amount, but overall the garden is nice and stable. Very little loss of vegetables to animals, only insects and birds. We added some more space around the outside for random flowers and plants.

This is it finished

I'm Back Damn rocks
I borrowed a tiller from my boss and tilled up the grass that was there, we then loaded in 4 yards of leaf compost and tilled that in. 6 yards of mulch.

We bought 20 pallet loads of sandstone off of this old guy named Huey who was into all things rock. His place had huge pieces of granite, limestone, sandstone and various other stuff. If you buy rock by the pallet at most places you are looking at about 125 a pop. We got the sandstone for 35 a pallet but I had to buy it all so I have a shit ton of rock. I also had to load and unload it all by hand, which took awhile. We used that for path borders. He also gave us this 3ftx10"x8" piece of limestone to use as a stone bench for the garden.

Wife got about half the plants from splitting plants we already had and another 1/4 from free craigslist listings, basically come dig it up and its yours. Found an add for free pea gravel on craigslist, which was load your own again, got 3 yards of that for the pathways. My little truck has been working hard this year. I put supersprings on my truck a few years ago and they work great.

Got a cheap wrought iron gate/fence from Lowes to keep the dogs from tearing everything up and as a nice demarcation line. Supposedly it rusts easily but if you add a good coat of paint on it before you put it out it lasts a long time.

Still have a lot of rock left so I am building pathways around the yard to various places. I rented a sod cutter, which worked great, cleared a path right out. Put the sod created on craigslist for free and someone came and took it about an hour later. Also giving some to a coworker to patch up his lawn.

Been a hard labor summer but it kept everything cheap and has come out well.

Rain Water

I have a 55 gal drum to catch rainwater. It is not nearly enough but tanks are expensive and this was free. I use the Leaf Beater as a filter to keep the tubing/barrel from clogging. It a least filters the big stuff out. It seems to work well I clean it out of leaves and gumballs every so often. I then use Garden Watersaver to actually capture the rainwater and siphon into the barrel. The good thing about the watersaver is that it auto shuts off when the tank is full based on back pressure, the rainwater then continues down the gutter as normal.

For getting the water out I use a harbor freight Booster pump. This keeps the water a constant pressure so the heads work correctly. It as fittings for garden house connections and most importantly a check valve. When the pump pressurizes it shuts off at a preset limit if there is no check valve it sends all the water back into the barrel. The check valve prevents that.

A much finer filter and a pressure regulator so that the water pressure does not get above 30PSI. Micro irrigation heads are prone to clogging so you have to filter the water if you want it to work for any period of time. The pressure regulator protects the heads from getting blown off or injured by pressure surges. The system can also be hooked directly to city water via garden hose if the rain barrel is empty.

Finally the sprinkler heads. The first iteration had drip lines but the wife did not feel they were getting enough water so the micro sprinklers were installed and they work well. I get most of my micro irrigation stuff from although the heads pictured are from Lowes.

All in all it works great I just wish I had a 300 gal tank or so to get though longer droughts.]]>
Blender Part 2

This is the finished project and I have to say that it worked awesome. I used all junk laying around the house/work to recreate because I am currently being cheap.

The switch is a kill for the engine which shorts the magneto. The ball valve is the a simple mechanical speed control. I extended the pull start outside the box for easy starting and added a vent hole in the side near the air intake so it could breath better. The strap holds down the blender jar and doubles as a carrying handle.

Nothing special here just the wiring and the motor mounting.

See it in Action, thanks to M1
House Repair this. is what I found. This happens to be a loading bearing beam for the second floor and roof, its 2 sandwiched 2x8s supported by a post on one end and a wall on the other with a span of about 16ft. I was concerned about doing this work myself because I was afraid of the house falling on my head. I braced the area with 4x4s and jacked up the end to help support the load then called in a construction company to fix the problem. After seeing what they did I could have done this myself, not saying I did not like the job they did just that it was nothing special. They said it was probably from some flashing failure so that tiny section of roofing was replaced and reflashed when fixed. .

After that costly repair I decided to check out some of the other areas of the house I had been ignoring. DONíT EVER BUY A HOUSE WITH MASONITE (type) SIDING. It sucks. Masonite is basically a compressed wood product that is used in sidings and rots like crazy. Anyways on the leeward sun side of our house the dormers were rotting. I pulled off all the old siding found that the under structure was intact (thank god) and replaced the siding with Hardie Board which is a concrete based siding which does not rot but blends in nicely to the existing crap board. The only problem with the hardieboard is that you have to pre drill the nail holes and the crazy dust when you cut it, but it was not too much of a hassle. I did 3 dormers here is pic of 1.

Next project was to replace the rotting trim on the front of the house, as the front has no gutters and itís shady so the water does not dry quickly enough. So pulled off ĺ of the front trim, was bad enough that the 2x4 behind had taken some rot and pulled them off also. The rafters were in good shape, so I replaced all of the 2x4s with pressure treated and replaced the trim. A note, if you are replacing trim paint the front/back/sides/ends, this will help stop water from being absorbed into the wood. Most of the rooted areas were at the seams at the boards or the top of the board which was not painted. This pic is from the middle of the project.

Last project (for now) was at the rear of the house. My house has lots of roof to wall interactions, donít know why but I hate it. These are the areas that let in water and cause problems. So I noticed some rotting siding under this area, I pulled off the trim and found a rotting rafter, a 1x1ft section of rotten plywood roofing. Great. I pulled off the shingles, cut out the rotted roof, sistered in a new rafter for about 1ft that needed it. I then replaced the plywood roofing, tarpapered the plywood, flashed a bunch of areas, shingled the roof and replaced the trim. I also replaced some of the siding underneath. I have never worked on roofs before so I was a little worried but we had some big rains the other day and it looks perfect. I don't have many pictures from this project but this one is after plywood, tarpaper and rafters installed.

Each one of these projects is a weekend, usually only a day. Only have one more thing to do which is to replace some boards on some posts we have on the front porch. Since we donít have gutters on the front the splashing get on the posts and the shade causes no drying.

I am looking forward to doing some more interesting projects in the future.]]>
Wood 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 childrenís 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 donít 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 donít 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 2Ē 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 1/4ď grove in the supports to lay in some 1/4Ē 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.

Camera Rig
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.
Updated Pics

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


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


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.
Sherman Stats

The outside temperatureÖ (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.
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)
Arcade2 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, 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.
moto bike 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 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 (itís a Lifan LF200GY-5(200cc) if your interested).

Outdoor 2 Update 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.

Go me
Its alive 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 . 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.]]>
Various Outdoors 2 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
Mold & Cast 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.

Arcade Machine 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 itís 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)
Pictures update 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.
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 whatís 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.]]>
Various House 2
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.
Excuses 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.

Various House Projects 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.
Blend a little Also props (haha props) to Bean for his automatic margarita dispenser which kept everyone well lit.
I had stepped up the size of the prop because I thought last years device needed a larger propeller. When the prop was inserted into the water the small 1" piece of drive shaft not covered by the drive shaft support bent at 60 degree angle. Straightening and shortening the drive shaft worked (although a slight bit wobbly) but the load under water was too much to keep the engine going even at full throttle. I calculated and the max prop size I could have is theoretically 3" with a max speed of 6.2 Knots using my 1hp weedeater engine spinning at 8000RPM with a perfectly pitched prop.

Since I am cheap and limited on time I think I will try to cut down the 6" 2 bladed prop that I have to something like a 3".
Vroom...Blend...Vroom.. It's Alive. If not a little ghetto looking.

After a few iterations of the drive shaft, I got it working without tearing itself apart and flinging parts everywhere. Actually it eats ice like crazy now.

I found that the featherlite weedeater does not contain any type of clutch (although some other brands do). I also found that no clutch is necessary when using it as a blender. I was afraid it would be difficult to pull start if there was ice around the blade but the blade characteristics shoot the ice up with very little torque so no need for the drill clutch. Sweet.

If you note the high tech bungee cord holding apparatus you may wonder why I choose this holding method instead of something more permanent. Well I also made this attachment. The bungee cord was the easiest method I found for attaching both.

First attempt at using it in my pool caused the prop to fall off. I have since revised and left theaded the attachment point.

Total cost: ~$10 plus blender top.

Darts Lilliputian Darts.
It's surprisingly fun, I won the tournament today but I do get to practice more than most. Here are the instructions we have come up with also.
Oh yeah I got the magnet at which has awesome deals on random crap.]]>
Vroom...Vroom... Anyways an idea was brought up this year for a gas powered blender. Been done before and can be bought commercially but much more interesting to do it myself. First thought was to use the gas lawn mower engine I had earmarked for the generator but the design would be the same. The unit would have to fairly large since the shaft is downward facing and I would have to use a pulley system. I figure 24x12x18, I don't think the canoe rental people would be welcoming with such a large contraption.
Turning to trusty ebay (Paul suggestion) I found this and got it for 5 dollars. Sweet.
I disassembled my blender at home, took the entire think apart trying to get off the drive coupling from the motor before I realized that it was just a left handed screw. Twisted right off, no tools needed.
This unit should be small enough to fit in a dry bag I have and can be sneaked on the boat easily.
I am fairly concerned about operation though. I don't have any type of clutch system so the coupler will always be turning. Do I have to shut off the engine to attach the pitcher and then try to start with the ice in it or can I attach the pitcher to the already spinning coupler. Does the weedeater have a built in clutch? Maybe I need to figure out a clutch, I am thinking a clutch from a drill.
Fridge/Oven/Peltiers that bean said would not work here.
Now I also have a picture of the Liconic robotic oven in question which I also got off of ebay real cheap about a year and half ago. The oven does work nicely, I wrote a program to control all robotic functions and graph temp stability and sensor positions which works nicely as well.
On a side note, I love Ebay.
Now the idea is to sandwich a peltier between 2 heat sinked fans (with some thermal paste), one to blow the cool air in the fridge the other to cool off the peltier so it can continue to make coldness. I have enough to make 15 of these little guys and they can be powered off of 8Vs although they require 3 amps. That may make it tough to find a transformer. oh well I have a adjustable power supply for testing anyways (Got it off of ebay also).
CNC Update1 die grinder. , spins at 30000rpm has some crazy power. I was cutting though some steel with a 3 in circular blade on it and it was just eating it up. I have a more limited Z axis than I did before so I will have to see how that works out but I don't want to run until I have the water cooling because it will burn up bits. I am probably going to have to make a speed control for it also...

I also procured this. Its a vacuum clamp that uses compressed air to operate. It has a ventura valve in it and will hold any non porous material. Its surprisingly strong and gets good reviews best of all it fairly cheap. Check it out. ]]>