Rolling Workbench Update

I built the “Basic Mobile Work­bench” fol­low­ing Steve Ram­sey’s design about two years ago. Hav­ing a work­bench on wheels ‑along with the a roll-up exten­sion cord in the mid­dle of the garage- real­ly changed the entire way I make any­thing in the garage shop. But I put some pret­ty tiny lit­tle cast­ers on it, and though it rolled ok, I’d always want­ed to improve it. How­ev­er, since I built it at the height of the table saw, there was not way I could raise. Well, with a new table saw (more to come on that soon), I decid­ed now was a good time to put on some big­ger rollers.

I cut off the legs below the cross mem­bers using my late father-in-law’s old rec­i­p­ro­cat­ing saw. That old Crafts­man is crazy pow­er­ful and made short work of it. I also cut some sup­port bases out of 3/4″ con­struc­tion ply­wood to lev­el out those cuts and give the lag screws some­thing meaty to attach to. The over­all effect was to raise the top sur­face about an inch and it rolls bet­ter than ever.

Shop Vac Dust Collection

I built an out-board roller sup­port for my dust col­lec­tion for use with my shop vac. For a cheap project made from scraps, I’m very hap­py with the results.

Rigid shop vac with dust collection
My roller board attached to the shop vac

I’ve used the same Ridgid shop vac for dust col­lec­tion for about 16 years. It con­tin­ues to serve me well, but last year I pur­chased a Dustop­per from Home Depot to use with a 5 gal­lon buck­et in order to col­lect saw dust and oth­er debris. This saves on the fil­ter, as most of the dust gets deposit­ed in the buck­et before it actu­al­ly gets to the shop vac. This also makes emp­ty­ing out the waste a lot eas­i­er.

Well, in the­o­ry, any­way. First of all, there are oth­er cyclonic dust col­lec­tors that are for use with shop vacs that no doubt work a bit bet­ter. This was a cheap (around $25) option and it was low­er pro­file (more on that fur­ther down). But it was a huge pain to drag the entire set­up around the garage! The hoses kept com­ing undone. The buck­et han­dle at one point pulled off the buck­et. I tried zip ties and ratch­et straps, but it just wob­bled around and tipped over on me.

A cou­ple of weeks ago I sketched out a rough idea of sup­port­ing the buck­et dust col­lec­tion with anoth­er cast­er. A lot of oth­er DIY’ers solve this prob­lem by mak­ing a ver­ti­cal­ly stack­ing cart, with the dust col­lec­tion on top. How­ev­er, I store my shop vac under my work bench and I need­ed a low pro­file solu­tion. Also, I felt like I could build a min­i­mal sys­tem here and only need to pur­chase a cast­er. I also pur­chased one of those “cut to your own size” shop vac pow­er tool attach­ments, but it end­ed up not being near­ly rigid enough to make a sol­id con­nec­tion.

I used some scrap 3/4″ pine ply­wood (like con­struc­tion grade stuff). I mea­sured out the curve of the shop vac body as well as the buck­et and cut that to fit the pro­file.

Plywood cut to fit bucket
I used a jig saw to cut out the ply­wood

I propped it up on some oth­er scraps to check the fit, trim­ming a bit more to fit the curve of the body. I also mea­sured the height from the floor to the bot­tom of the ply­wood (about 4 1/4″).

Sizing up the fit and height
Siz­ing up the fit and height

I cut out some scrap MDF pieces to make a ris­er for the cast­er. The cast­er mea­sures 2 1/4″ tall, so I need­ed about 2″ total. This was two 3/4″ and one 1/2″ thick pieces of MDF, cut down to about 3″ by 3 1/2″. I glued them up and then sand­ed the edges to clean every­thing up a bit. I also sand­ed all the edges of the ply­wood plat­form, think­ing that will reduce shin splin­ters in the future.

I then attached the ris­er to the ply­wood using 1–5/8″ deck­ing screws. I counter-sunk the screw heads on top, just to keep the sur­face flat for the buck­et.

A set of counter-sink bits is a good pur­chase

As I men­tioned, I used one of those rub­ber, cut-to-fit hose attach­ments. The idea here was that I would nest this into the shop vac attach­ment stor­age slot on one of its cast­ers. Then I could screw the attach­ment to the ply­wood. I real­ly should­n’t have both­ered. The soft rub­ber just did­n’t give me any con­fi­dence that the con­nec­tion was sol­id. And the whole plat­form could wob­ble too much side to side. So, I grabbed a cou­ple of gal­va­nized met­al build­ing clips (basi­cal­ly, a small angle with some pre-drilled holes). I mount­ed those on the under­side of the ply­wood and screwed a 5/8″ screw on each side into the shop vac body. This may result in some lost suc­tion, but I can always go back and seal off those screw holes with some sil­i­con if so. So far, though, I can’t tell any dif­fer­ence.

Plat­form attach­ment to shop vac

Last­ly, I took a sec­ond buck­et and just screwed it down to the ply­wood. The dust col­lec­tion buck­et can then nest inside this one. It makes for a very sol­id con­nec­tion that I can pull on, but also allows the dust col­lec­tion buck­et to swiv­el. And, the final test: the entire thing eas­i­ly rolls up under my work bench.

Shop vac with attached dust col­lec­tion fits under my work bench

Of course, I prompt­ly pulled the vac­u­um back out to clean up the garage! It works great. And all for the cost of a 2″ swiv­el cast­er. I did blow about $10 dol­lars on that vac­u­um con­nec­tion piece. I may get a more rigid flange con­nec­tion to replace it, though (Wood­craft has one for about $5). I’m con­sid­er­ing also paint­ing the wood pieces gray and black to match the shop vac, which would be an excuse to take it apart and make that con­nec­tion bet­ter.

Raised Bed for Gardening

We’ve been doing a lot of spruc­ing up in our yard in the past few weeks. Angela has want­ed a raised gar­den bed for a long time and Bob of I Like to Make Stuff has a real­ly great, sim­ple design which he recent­ly built that I liked a lot. I will con­fess that I might have bought a kit if one had been avail­able. The price of the mate­ri­als end­ed up being about the same and it was a fun project.

The raised gar­den bed with some veg­eta­bles plant­ed

The mate­ri­als for this were four 8′ deck­ing boards, a 4′ sec­tion of 2“x2” alu­minum angle, and some deck­ing screws (which I already had). I cut the deck­ing boards into 4′ lengths, two for each side.

Deck­ing boards and alu­minum angle from the big-box hard­ware store

Alu­minum is soft enough to cut with most wood­work­ing blades, so I cut the angle into four 1′ lengths1. I then used the band­saw to cut 1–1/2″ angles to one end of each length. These will act as spikes to hold the bed in place. I used a sim­pler cut than Bob’s, fig­ur­ing it would still stick in the ground well enough. I also used the band­saw and disk sander to round off the cor­ners. I left an inch gap at the top, as well so that the cor­ners would­n’t scrape any knees or shins.

The band­saw eas­i­ly cut through 1/2″ of alu­minum

I worked out a screw pat­tern to attach the cor­ners to the boards. The deck­ing boards had a cou­ple of thin­ner chan­nels on the under­side, so I tried to put the screws into the “meati­er” sec­tions. The cor­ners are over­lap joints, so the screw pat­tern isn’t sym­met­ric on either side of the cor­ner. Once I worked out the pat­tern and “dry” fit a cor­ner sec­tion, I used the drill press to drill a set of holes. I messed up a cou­ple of hole loca­tions but anoth­er dry fit had the pat­tern final­ized. I drilled and coun­ter­sunk 32 holes into the alu­minum.

A cou­ple of pieces of wood in the drill press clamp held the angle for drilling

Then it was time for assem­bly, which meant pre-drilling all those holes into the deck­ing. I prob­a­bly did­n’t have to pre-drill them, but as the holes were very close to the board ends, I want­ed to make sure they did­n’t tear out.

A view of the screw pat­tern and the angled steak end

Angela helped me car­ry the assem­bly into the gar­den where it was time to load up with soil and plants. Ains­ley helped her plant some veg­eta­bles. Some of these were seeds, so it looks more emp­ty than it is.

Ains­ley water­ing down the soil before plant­i­ng
  1. Bob’s design has longer cor­ner pieces, but he also appar­ent­ly had more alu­minum on hand than I could get. These alu­minum pieces aren’t espe­cial­ly cheap, either. []

Wheelbarrow Repair

Our old wheel­bar­row had been sit­ting long enough that the han­dles had more-or-less turned into mulch. Iron­ic, as mulch is pri­mar­i­ly what we’ve car­ried around the yard in the wheel­bar­row. I had con­sid­ered mak­ing some new han­dles out of pres­sure-treat­ed pine, but replace­ment hard­wood han­dles weren’t ter­ri­bly expen­sive. So I ven­tured out to the big-box hard­ware store to get some (where I was in the vast minor­i­ty by wear­ing a face mask!).

Rotted Wheelbarrow handle
The han­dles for the wheel­bar­row com­plete­ly rot­ted away at the end

This project would have been just about impos­si­ble if I did­n’t have some Liq­uid Wrench to loosen up the rust­ed nuts. It took about 5 min­utes for it to work into the bolts and almost every­one came right off.

Liquid Wrench
Liq­uid Wrench to the res­cue

Once I got the entire wheel­bar­row apart, I traced over the bolt hole loca­tions to the replace­ment han­dles. My assis­tant was there to ensure that all mea­sure­ments were accu­rate and well-sniffed.

Hargie helps with measurements
Hargie helps with mea­sure­ments

I used the drill press and a 3/8″ forstner bit drill the holes. I have a fair­ly cheap set of Ryobi bits (which pair nice­ly with my trusty Ryobi drill press!). I can def­i­nite­ly see pur­chas­ing a much nicer set of forstner bits as they are fast and clean.

Drill Press
Han­dle bolt holes with the drill press

I did spend a few min­utes clean­ing off some sur­face rust from some met­al parts with a wire brush and some min­er­al spir­its. I hit all of them with a coat of black spray paint to hope­ful­ly reduce some future rust. I did­n’t spend a lot of time and did­n’t even wait for the paint to dry before I re-assem­bled every­thing.

Wheelbarrow Parts
Dirt and rust on some met­al parts

I re-assem­bled the wheel­bar­row minus a cou­ple of wood­en shim pieces. They had almost lit­er­al­ly turned to dirt at this point and would have been a pain to re-cut. I also need to get some zinc-coat­ed bolts and wash­ers at some point since the exist­ing bolts are now too long with out that shim in place. But it’s a 100% func­tion­ing wheel­bar­row again and looks pret­ty great actu­al­ly, as far as wheel­bar­rows go.

Wheelbarrow Glamour Shot
Looks bet­ter than ever

It believes in itself

It does­n’t take itself too seri­ous­ly but it believes in itself.

Tai­ka Wait­i­ti

In the round-table dis­cus­sion slash behind the scenes doc­u­men­tary series, Dis­ney Gallery: The Man­do­lo­ri­an, Tai­ka Wait­i­ti dis­cuss­es direct­ing the sea­son 1 finale. I love this quote as it sum­maries so well the idea of be true and earnest, with­out a fear of ridicule or need for val­i­da­tion. Sim­ply the joy of can be val­i­da­tion enough. It real­ly sum­ma­rizes a lot of Wait­i­ti’s work (at least the parts I’m famil­iar with), like Thor: Rag­narok. But it’s real­ly true of any­thing worth being pas­sion­ate about: your joy of the thing is enough.

Alien Day

For the past few years, each April 26th I have to look up why it’s “Alien Day”. The date is named after the plan­et LV-426, where the xenomorphs are first encoun­tered in the orig­i­nal, 1979 Rid­ley Scott film. Well, I’ve been a fan of the hor­ror-sci­fi fran­chise since I saw the sequel, Aliens. I’ve since watch any film in the series (good and bad) and read a lot of the comics. So, any­way, hap­py Alien Day to my fel­low sci-fi fans.

Aliens
Some comics, graph­ic nov­el col­lec­tions, and my attempt at draw­ing a xenomorph from cir­ca 1996.

D&D in the Age of the Lockdown

I’ve post­ed here before about play­ing Dun­geons & Drag­ons with my kids. We played a few nights togeth­er last Sum­mer, but most of our fam­i­ly game nights in the months since were spent play­ing board games or pok­er. But, as the coro­n­avirus forced us all to stay put far more often than we’d all pre­fer, we need­ed to think of more things to do. For­tu­nate­ly, my friend, Ted, has a son who has got­ten very inter­est­ed in all things D&D as of late. Ted and I had dis­cussed the idea of play­ing table­top games with the kids and I’d always thought it would be inter­est­ing to try a dig­i­tal table­top site.

So, about three weeks ago, we all got togeth­er via speak­er phone1 and on Roll20.net. I end­ed up pur­chas­ing a dig­i­tal pack­age of the same adven­ture my kids had start­ed (they for­tu­nate­ly had­n’t made it too far and you’d be sur­prised at the re-playa­bil­i­ty of an adven­ture with total­ly dif­fer­ent deci­sions). The kids all rolled up char­ac­ters based on what they want­ed to play: a tei­fling fight­er for my daugh­ter, a drag­onborne ranger for my son, and a halfling wiz­ard for Ted’s son. Ted just picked the clas­sic dwar­ven cler­ic out of the pre-gen­er­at­ed char­ac­ters. Don’t wor­ry if half of those words don’t make any sense; just know that this is a fan­ta­sy adven­ture where they’re all play­ing fan­tas­ti­cal races of crea­tures who fight the evil hordes to save a vil­lage and sur­round­ing area.

Roll20 Screenshot of Dads and Kids Game Night
The play­ers fight some orcs in the Roll20 dig­i­tal table­top

My kids are inter­est­ed in play­ing and seem to be enjoy­ing. Ted’s son is real­ly lov­ing D&D and is even run­ning his own game for some if his friends, which is awe­some! But it’s def­i­nite­ly a great way to be able to do some­thing with anoth­er fam­i­ly while still being togeth­er with the kids. All three of the kids have some inter­est­ing nam­ing schemes for their char­ac­ters, to be sure. We’re gen­er­al­ly keep­ing the ses­sions to about 2–1/2 hours each week. This ends being about two encoun­ters (read: fights with mon­sters) and the gen­er­al deci­sion mak­ing and role play­ing that comes along with the game.

As for being a dun­geon mas­ter, I can’t claim it was ever some­thing I was espe­cial­ly great at, but I’m hav­ing a real­ly good time doing it. I’ve learned a lot about 5th edi­tion D&D as well as the Roll20 plat­form (both are pret­ty great, if you ask me). I like to think I’m get­ting bet­ter as we go, too.

I hope it’s some­thing we can keep going, at least for a few weeks longer. Of course, at this point, it’s not at all clear how much longer coro­n­avirus response shel­ter-in-place orders will be in effect here (or any­where, real­ly). Of course, we could always just play in-per­son with our friends down the street should those ever let up. Imag­ine that, play­ing a pen-and-paper RPG togeth­er at the same table!

  1. My kids and I play togeth­er on PCs in our din­ing room while Ted & son play togeth­er in his home office. Though Roll20 has an audio chat fea­ture, it has ter­ri­ble feed­back in gen­er­al when every­one isn’t on head­phones. So, since we’re just con­nect­ing two house­holds, the speak­er­phone seems to work well enough for us. []

Sabbath Drive

This is a post that has been a very long time in the mak­ing. I start­ed this project back in Octo­ber of 2018. Gui­tarPCB had a sale and it looked like their Sab­o­tage Dri­ve would be an inter­est­ing chal­lenge. There were six (!) tran­sis­tors in this cir­cuit. But I want­ed to make this a real­ly fun project so I designed some cus­tom art­work as well, all themed around Black Sab­bath — the inspi­ra­tion of this cir­cuit’s sound. This cir­cuit fur­ther seems to be inspired by Catal­in­bread­’s Sab­bra Cadabra ped­al, anoth­er pre-amp in a box effects that tries to cap­ture Tony Iom­mi’s sound of a Dal­las Range­mas­ter tre­ble boost push­ing a Laney Super­group head1. Or, put it anoth­er way, the sound of doom met­al!

Sabbath Drive Workstation
Sol­der­ing com­po­nents for the Sab­bath Dri­ve project

I did some lay­out in an SVG file for the graph­ics, which you can see above. This is also large­ly where I did the drill hole pat­terns for the enclo­sure, as those go hand-in-hand. My graph­ics incor­po­rat­ed some of the Sab­bath album cov­ers. I was fair­ly proud of the design, if not the actu­al imple­men­ta­tion. I then got to sol­der­ing the cir­cuit com­po­nents. Bar­ry Stein­del of Gui­tarPCB did a great job design­ing this for a rel­a­tive­ly com­plex build, it is a very clean lay­out.

Sabbath Drive PCB Resistors
Resis­tors and tran­sis­tor sock­ets in place

I think I’ve men­tioned this before, but I am in the habit of tap­ing out all the com­po­nents to a parts sheet with labels that cor­re­spond to the PCB silk screen labels. This would­n’t scale up to a large pro­duc­tion, but for one-at-a-time builds, it real­ly takes the stress out of try­ing to find the right com­po­nent for each step.

Sabbath Drive Component Leads
Com­po­nent leads being cut
Sabbath Drive Components
Close-up of the tran­sis­tors being placed in the sock­ets — bend those leads!

Once the com­po­nents were in place, it was time to final­ize the enclo­sure lay­out. The rel­a­tive place­ment of the pots/knobs are fixed since they are sol­dered direct­ly to the PCB. But the place­ment of every­thing else is depen­dent on get­ting it all to fit. I would have loved top-mount­ed jacks as you can see in the orig­i­nal sketch below, but that was­n’t going to hap­pen with this PCB lay­out (in the size of enclo­sure I chose, any­way). I need­ed to for­go that in order to squeeze every­thing in place. Regard­less, no 9v bat­tery in here! I don’t use ’em any­way.

Sabbath Drive Enclosure Layout
“Dry fit­ting” the off board com­po­nents and con­trols for the lay­out

When it comes to drilling the enclo­sure, I use a step bit in my drill press. Anoth­er thing I’ve prob­a­bly men­tioned: I have a small med­i­cine syringe with machine cut­ting flu­id. That way I can use my cen­ter punch to mark the point on my tem­plate and the put 1–2 drops of cut­ting flu­id right at that spot.

Sabbath Drive Drill Press
Drilling the enclo­sure holes

As you can see below, I actu­al­ly test­ed the cir­cuit before I even com­plet­ed drilling all the lay­out holes. I drilled the holes for the pots to get those mount­ed to the PCB in the cor­rect ori­en­ta­tion. I think wired up some leads for sig­nal in/out, the 9v pow­er, and ground to hook up to my test­ing rig.

Sabbath Drive Test Box
Test­ing the effect on the my test­ing rig

Then it was time to fin­ish drilling the holes and wiring up the off board switch, jacks, and LED.

Sabbath Drive Case Layout
Off-board wiring in progress (I don’t recall why there was a third jack!)

It was a bit of a tight fit into the enclo­sure, but part of that was my desire to place the LED near the top of the ped­al I real­ly don’t like LEDs right by the footswitch, where the get cov­ered up by your foot! Sure, they’re a lot eas­i­er to put there, but they don’t make it easy to tell you’ve prop­er­ly engaged the effect.

Sabbath Drive Offboard Wiring
Com­plet­ing the off-board wiring

I tried using our vinyl cut­ting machine to cre­ate paint­ing a paint­ing tem­plate from my SVG file. My first mis­take was using some cheap vinyl which did­n’t stick to the pow­der-coat­ed sur­face well.

Sabbath Drive Vinyl Cutter
Cut­ting the paint tem­plate on our Cri­cut

Then I used acrylic paint which bled under that tem­plate. Also, the tiny let­ter­ing details were just about beyond the scale was which the Cri­cut could suc­cess­ful­ly cut this vinyl. The end result looked about like I’d just hand-paint­ed the whole thing. I was­n’t at all hap­py with the paint job, but know­ing I was­n’t like­ly to improve on it, I went ahead and sealed it with some spray clear coat.

Sabbath Drive Paint Template
Vinyl paint tem­plate trans­ferred to the enclo­sure
Sabbath Drive Painting
Acrylic paint on the tem­plate

So I fin­ished all this Decem­ber of 2018. I nev­er post­ed about it all last year though because I real­ly was­n’t able to get a good sound record­ing of this. My iPhone demos so far have been pret­ty lack­lus­ter. And this effect did­n’t sound as great as I’d liked any­way because it’s real­ly meant to run into a cranked amp. Though I used my pre-amp, pas­sive vol­ume con­trol I could­n’t real­ly push the pow­er amp sec­tion of my tube head. Well, in the past cou­ple of months I got a pow­er atten­u­a­tor and a pret­ty good mic to record some audio with. My ampli­fi­er has a “cab emu­la­tion” out­put, as does the pow­er atten­u­a­tor but both frankly sound pret­ty ter­ri­ble. None of the record­ings with those ever had any of the low end that the amp actu­al­ly pro­duces. But using the atten­u­a­tor with the head vol­ume cranked and the mic into my record­ing inter­face, I’m final­ly hap­py with the sound I can get record­ed.

So here is the full sig­nal chain:

  • My Fend­er Tele­cast­er with a Lace Sen­sor Death­buck­er pick­up in the bridge posi­tion2
  • This runs through a TC Elec­tron­ic P0lytune 3 (I men­tion this because it has a buffer — all oth­er effects are true bypass) and then into the Sab­bath Dri­ve ped­al.
  • The Black­star HT5 Met­al head on the clean chan­nel (cranked to 10) and a TC Elec­tron­ic Hall of Fame 2 reverb ped­al in the effects loop.
  • The head runs through the Bugera PS1 pow­er atten­u­a­tor into the Black­star 1x12” cab­i­net with a Celestion G‑12T speak­er.
  • The cab­i­net is mic’d with a MXR R144 rib­bon mic into the Behringer UMC22 audio inter­face.

I use some of the EQ set­ting in garage band for the gui­tar and the over­all mix. This par­tic­u­lar record­ing was used with one of the “auto” drum­mers in Garage Band. This video is the live record­ing you’re hear­ing; just poor­ly sync’d to the audio. The gui­tar is a sin­gle track.

*cough, cough* Sweet Leaf — Black Sab­bath (with all apolo­gies to Tony Iom­mi)

On the whole, I’m real­ly pleased with the sound of this ped­al. The Range and Pres­ence con­trols give a real­ly wide tonal range. I’ve cranked the dis­tor­tion here (hon­est­ly, not even sure why that knob exists! Just fix it at 10!). The vol­ume is about at noon. I shud­der to think just how loud this ped­al would be with that cranked.

Also, for ref­er­ence, here is a short demo I did of a Sleep song (“The Druid,” only slow­er tem­po) using the cab emu­la­tor from my amp head. The sound is def­i­nite­ly more “fizzy” and flat here.
  1. For the record, even though the old­er Sab­bath records were record­ed using those, it does­n’t appear Tony Iom­mi uses those any more. He has a sig­na­ture Laney head that appears to have the tre­ble boost “built in”. Laney also has a sim­i­lar, sig­na­ture ped­al which claims to box all this up, but appar­ent­ly Iom­mi does­n’t use it at all accord­ing to his site. []
  2. Yes, I need to write an entire post on my gui­tar and the mod­i­fi­ca­tions I’ve made to it. []

Hello From the Inside

Sneak­ing in at the end of the month…

Like most all of Amer­i­ca (and the world), I’m stay­ing home these days, hop­ing to avoid the spread of coro­n­avirus. Of course, I’ve worked from home for over twelve years now, so what’s new? Well, for­tu­nate­ly, my spouse is also able to work from home. We are both gain­ful­ly employed for the fore­see­able future (which admit­ted­ly, isn’t as long as was a month ago). Our kids are old enough to be respon­si­ble through­out the day to large­ly see to them­selves. In those ways, we are excep­tion­al­ly for­tu­nate. May folks are see­ing reduced ours, being fur­loughed, or even laid off of work all togeth­er. Many peo­ple are weath­er­ing this alone. Many more are deal­ing this while hav­ing to care for defen­dants that need far more atten­tion.

But even for us, it can be tough. So I tru­ly empathize with those who are deal­ing with far more issues than we are. So to those who read this, do try to take care of your­selves. These are tough times. It’s best to admit that we’re all hav­ing to deal with this to some degree. But it’s also good to acknowl­edge that every­one else is, too. Find some­things to help you keep per­spec­tive.

I’ll try to share some pho­tos of some of the high­lights of what we’ve been up to soon. I think I should be able to find some time…