Last year, I added a towing hitch to our Honda Pilot in order to haul bikes. However, it only made sense to go ahead and add the necessary wiring for pulling a trailer (brake lights, turn signals, etc.). So I ordered the OEM kit from HondaPartsGuys.com (great site for Honda and Acura owners!). Again, it warns that this is not a DIY kind of job in the instructions, but it really is very easy to do. The worst part was that I had to remove the hitch, bolt on the wiring socket, and then re-install the hitch. Otherwise, it went off without a hitch (no, wait, that’s not right).
I got a 7‑pin to 4‑pin adapter (most U‑Haul or other small trailers use the 4‑pin as they don’t have brakes and reverse lights). It also has a handy-dandy light tester in it, so I could verify the brakes and turn signals both work. A lot of tight spaces to work in, but kudos to Honda for designing a very easy to install system here.
Update 2020-07-18: We rented a trailer for our trip to IKEA to get some bathroom cabinets & counters.
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.
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.
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 bitbetter. 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.
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″).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. [↩]
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It doesn’t take itself too seriously but it believes in itself.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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. [↩]
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then it was time to finish drilling the holes and wiring up the off board switch, jacks, and LED.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. [↩]
Yes, I need to write an entire post on my guitar and the modifications I’ve made to it. [↩]