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.
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. [↩]
So, if you happened to read my post last month on injuring myself, you’ll recall I did so because I was hoping to make a box joint jig. A box joint, or as it also known: a finger joint, is a series of overlapping “fingers” along a joint. This style of joinery gives lots of glue surface area as well as shear strength to a corner joint. It’s commonly used for the corners of a box, thus the name.
Well, I did manage to make a first attempt at a jig and made a single joint test. I was hoping to use my standard table saw blade with my sled in lieu of purchasing a dado stack1. The jig is a bit too loose in the cuts and it’s possible my table saw sled is a bit too loose in the miter slots, as well. This combined with some cheaper birch plywood (there are lots of voids and a very thin veneer) resulted in the fingers looking more like a boxer who’d just fought Mike Tyson.
Also, the depth of the cuts were a bit too deep (which is easy to adjust, at least). But gluing up the loose joints was a mess.
I had sort of given up on the experiment as a failure, but I did recently go back and sand the fingers down; this time on purpose (yeah, I get the humor after last month’s incident). The joint still doesn’t look great but it wasn’t as “gap‑y” as it seemed before cleanup. What’s more, I can attest that even as poor as this one looks, it is incredibly strong. It’s not especially pretty, but for some utility boxes, it would definitely serve it’s purpose.
So, this wasn’t a total failure and I did learn a lot from the exercise, including the injury. Which, my fingers have completely healed back, nails and all. As a result of “babying” the left index finger, I did develop tendonitis in my left elbow (which is really the forearm muscles and tendon connection). So, that little incident continues to remind me to be safe!
A dado stack is a pair of blades, often with intermediate spacer/chippers in between which cut out a wider section of material in each pass on a table saw. [↩]
A few years ago when I was considering getting into more “fine” woodworking, there was one project that came to mind: recreating the footstools my grandfather, Cicero, used to make. He was a handy woodworker and built a lot of useful projects1 I know we had two or three of these footstools around the house growing up. I assume my aunts and cousins may have had some, as well. They’re perhaps not a master craftsman project, but let’s not over-estimate my abilities. As my mom put it, though, after about a half century, they’re still in use!
So in 2016 I sat down to carefully draw out the pieces. His were all made from 1″ thick solid pine, but I figured I’d use 3/4″ plywood instead. The legs and sides have a roughly 10° slant such that the base tapers up to give a slight lip all around the top footrest. I also decided to add a handhold to the top of mine (some others of his may have this, but the one that sits in our kitchen does not). On my notes and sketches, I also doodled out a logo that read “Cicero Hand Made Crafts. Est. 2016”. I figured he was the “maker” in my family so I’d honor that by labeling made items with his name.
It took me about a year-and-a-half until I actually got around to making my first footstool. I batched out the pieces on the table saw for two footstools from a 2’x4’ project board of 3/4″ maple plywood. Some of the angle cuts using my cut pattern resulted in a color mis-match in the wood, but this could probably be resolved by buying higher quality plywood in the future. The bandsaw was used for all curves, including cutting the arches in the legs at 10° (so they’re actually level when assembled). I used the drill press and a 1 5/8″ forstner bit to hog out material for the handle (which I then cleaned up with a series of rasps, files, and sandpaper). The disc and belt sander were used to clean up all the edges (with care not to remove any more finger nails). My super-simple router table was used to add a 1/4″ round-over to edges. I then used the random orbital sander to clean everything up.
I used made an assembly jig for the first piece and used pocket holes to attach the legs to the top (something my grandfather didn’t have but he seemed like a practical enough person, he’d have used them if he could have). I attached the side runners to the legs with some counter-sunk wood screws (black). I used a light color wood filler for any ply gaps (or other blemishes). Finally, a generous coat of wipe-on polyurethane was applied for a finish.
I assembled the first footstool as a Christmas gift for my older brother last year and then completed the second footstool as a Christmas gift for my mom this year. The process for building both pieces was a learning curve, so I didn’t really take great photos of either build. These are a mix of both projects (which is why the tops look different). I already have planned out making some additional templates to use with a trim router to help improve the process for future builds. This project is so great because it ends up using almost every power tool I have. But just like every project I try, there is always something new to learn even when I’ve already built the same thing before!
One of which was a long shelf for my dad’s hi-fi system; a gift to his new son-in-law. This later became the platform which our G.I.Joe USS Flag aircraft carrier play set lived! [↩]
I got a hard lesson delivered today while starting a project in the garage this afternoon. I’ll lead in with saying that I’m ok (and will heal up fine in a week or so); only a bit rattled. Let me start with where my head was (and shouldn’t have been) that got me here.
I’ve had on my “To Do” list for 2019 to learn how to make box joints. Well, here we are into December and I’ve not even tried it. I had wanted to spend last Saturday working on it, but I let the weekend get away with me with Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations (which are fine and I was glad to get the time I had with all my family). This evening, I had a Cub Scout event with my son in which I was responsible for bring some audio and video equipment (i.e., our home AV receiver, speakers, and disc player). That ended up taking a lot longer than I had anticipated. But I had an hour to spare so I figured I’d at least get a jump start on my box joint jig, knowing all day Sunday (tomorrow) is going to be busy with other things.
And it’s entirely worth underscoring here: this is all arbitrary pressure I’ve put on myself. Absolutely no one else cares if I figure out how to make box joints ever, let alone today or even this year. But I had convinced myself that I needed to rush through the hour to get the table saw jig set up.
I picked out my backing board and was looking for a piece of scrap that approximately the same thickness as my table saw blade kerf (simply put, that’s the width of the cut that the table saw makes and is fractionally wider than the blade itself). My initial plastic piece for the jig ended up a big loose the backing board, so I wanted to quickly try a different approach. Mind you, the piece I’m trying to cut is less than a 1/4″ thick. So I figured, why not start with a thin off cut and just sand it down to the necessary thickness?
My power sander is a combination of a belt sander and 6″ disc sander. The disc of course will put a twist on any object pushed into it, so a firm grip and just being mindful of one side lifting and the other pushing down is important. I grabbed a long thing piece of scrap and tried sanding it on the disc, not thinking about where my hands would go if (when) it slipped out of my grip. I also failed to put on gloves. You certainly do not wear gloves with some power tools (anything with a circular spinning blade), but they are a good idea with a sander.
Within less than a second of me pushing the wood into the disc, it knocked it right out of my hand and left me pushing my fingers into the sanding disc. Now, in all the power tools I have, if I had to pick one that I was going to injure myself on, it would probably be the power sander. Blades, as you can imagine, can quickly cut into flesh and cause serious injury or death. I cannot imagine sustaining a life-threating injury on a small power sander like mine (though I’m not saying it’s impossible). But at 3600 rpm, 120 grit sandpaper can remove skin and nails quite rapidly. Certainly faster than my reaction time. Before I knew it, my unnecessary rush and lack of thinking about what I was doing caused me to injure my index and middle fingers on my left hand. My middle finger got the skin scraped badly but my index nail is about 1/4″ too short now. And boy howdy is that sensitive skin under there!
Again, it’s nothing serious. I was able to turn off the machine and immediately go treat it myself. My fingers are sore but the nail should grow back. Honestly, it’s the lesson I needed to learn. Power tools are not anything to be in a rush around. Every action with one requires complete focus and attention. I need to always think about how the tool could injure me based on the action the tool makes. Given that I was also using my band saw and table saw today (which, I do take less for granted, to be fair to myself), I’m fortunate that this is the injury I ended up with.
As my kids join me in the shop more, I’ve had to teach them lessons about safety. I’ve even had to warn my son about touching that very sanding disc until it comes to a complete stop (he thought he should stop it spinning one day after I’d killed the power). I even recently watched James Hamilton’s (aka, Stumpy Nubs) video on injuring himself with an angle grinder and remarked on the need to pay attention when I’m working. I firmly believe that the number one most important piece of safety equipment is your brain. Too bad I failed to put that and my gloves on this afternoon. I’ll do my best to take that lesson to heart from now on.
The Pro Co Rat is a, if not the, classic distortion guitar effect1. It’s still around though “vintage” effects can go for hundreds of dollars. There are many variants and, like any classic guitar effect, there are many clones. It’s also one of those pedals that many of the mods and clones have improved upon the original.
I got a complete pedal kit from Aion effects — the Helios Vintage Distortion. I have built one of their effects using just a PCB before, and the instructions are top-notch. The kit was equally well done, with quality components. The Helios is basically a Rat clone that uses an OP07 chip (instead of the hard to find LM308N and most folks who seem to know say they sound the same, anyway). The Helios also includes a couple of very common modifications to the Rat: an additional “sweep” control and a clipping diode selection. The former adds an additional EQ control to the pedal where as the latter adds the ability to select different clipping diodes that decide the characteristics of the distortion.
I’m not sure if I’ve really mentioned this in any posts of effects building, but I prefer to tape down all of the components for each build onto paper along each of their descriptions. This is sort of analogous to “knolling” a LEGO kit, I suppose (though taping them down makes the components easier to identify later!).
As I mentioned, the Aion kit comes with what all seem to be high quality components. I have to admit, the all red resistors had me confused. They were clearly labeled with text as to each value (which is much better than trying to read color bands!). They appear to be 1/4W 1% metal film resistors with a coating and printed value is all.
The kit comes with literally everything you need, including pot isolation covers. The fit-up of the top-mount audio and power jacks is very precise, so I did have to re-work the solder joints on one of the jacks. But the resulting finish of the enclosure is that much nicer.
The wiring in the pedal is done using headers and small ribbon cables. If you really hate off-board wiring (I don’t mind it so much), this is really nice. Here you can see the custom dressing nut used over the stomp switch (there’s a similar custom nut for the clipping switch!), which gives the pedal a very high-end made feel.
I do have a few complaints about the kit, though. First is that the PCB just refused to lay flat on the selector switch and pots. I could have fiddled with it more, but it seemed like things just didn’t want to line up. Even though Aion states the 3PDT footswitch is a premium switch, with longer life, I’m not a fan of the feel of it (I guess I’m just so used to either a relay or the Taiwan blue switch!). Lastly, and this is something I absolutely plan to change on this pedal: the LED is insanely bright! I mean, it hurts to look at and is actually distracting, even when you’re not looking directly at the pedal! I’m going to swap out the LED resistor to dim it down. A lot!
But these are great kits and this is an amazing pedal for less than $75 (on sale, regularly $82). The assembly took me about 2 hours or so (that includes taking a few minutes to put my son to bed). Of course, your mileage may vary. Some of their pedals are sold fully assembled on Reverb or you can also reach out to a builder to see about pricing an assembled pedal. Even at that price, it’s a good deal! With the clipping options, it can cover ground from almost a transparent boost all the way to a medium gain distortion pedal (I mean, it’s no Boss Metal Zone…). It’s honestly cheaper than you could purchase a used Rat pedal and mod it, and already modded Rat pedals go for much more.
Now, none of this matters if it doesn’t sound good, of course. Once again, I’ve managed to build a pedal and write a blog post without bothering to record any audio. Part of that is because I don’t yet have a mic and I’m not pleased with the cabinet simulator on my amp head. But mostly, it’s because I’m lazy and not really a great guitar player! I’ll try to get some audio posted soon, though.
Now, when I say “distortion effect”, I’m not referring to fuzz pedals or distorted amplifiers, I really do just mean distortion effects pedals. Hendrix never played one of these! [↩]