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.

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…

Content Strategy: How Long is This Gonna Take?

It’s the very end of the month (a leap month, no less! I had an extra day!) and I’ve got a cou­ple of projects I want to post about, but they’re still in progress. So, instead of some per­son­al cre­ative or DIY stuff, I want­ed to post about some­thing more work-relat­ed for me. From the very begin­ning of my work as a tech­ni­cal writer, I described my approach to how I see my doc­u­men­ta­tion work being used as fol­lows:

  1. Imme­di­ate: tool tip, pop-ups, hov­er info in your IDE. 
  2. Quick answer: F1 on what a dia­log field val­ues are or a function/method
  3. Long answer: search the docs and poke around until I find my answer
  4. Learn­ing: Inten­tion­al read­ing, in the order pre­sent­ed, if the doc­u­men­ta­tion

Lev­els 0 & 1 both start in soft­ware or code and end there. This has the least and next-to-least inter­rup­tion to your work. The answer is imme­di­ate­ly when you need it or just a click & scroll away.

Lev­el 2 is often back and forth between docs and soft­ware. This inher­ent­ly can feel tedious. Often, this results in not even find­ing what you need (unless you were look­ing for frus­tra­tion). Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this is also where a lot of prod­uct help leaves you.

Lev­el 3 is sole­ly in the docs. You’re no longer per­form­ing your pri­ma­ry goal or job func­tion. This was not so com­mon for new employ­ees or employ­ees who just got a new tool in the work­place at one time. It feels like a rare lux­u­ry today, though. Too many work­places pri­or­i­tize keep­ing pro­duc­tive day-to-day over mak­ing their employ­ees pro­duc­tive in the longer term.

So, what’s the point? Lev­el 0 & 1 should be the goals, but they require sig­nif­i­cant more plan­ning and coor­di­na­tion with prod­uct devel­op­ers and UX design­ers. And, if we’re being hon­est, mak­ing Lev­el 2 work effec­tive­ly is going to require some of the same. And if you’re writ­ing man­u­als like any­one has the time for Lev­el 3, you’re shoot­ing your­self in the foot for all of the oth­er cas­es.

First Box Joint Test

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.

Some loose and chipped fin­gers

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.

You can see some of the over­lap here

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.

Noth­ing a bit of wood filler and fin­ish could­n’t make look nice

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!

  1. 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. []

Cicero Footstool

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!

Foot­stool built by my grand­fa­ther along with my orig­i­nal notes and sketch­es

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.

My orig­i­nal Cicero logo sketch

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.

Cut mate­r­i­al for the first foot­stool

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.

Jig hold­ing up leg at cor­rect angle and spac­ing for pock­et holes
My daugh­ter help­ing apply fin­ish to the foot­stool for her grand­moth­er
First foot­stool assem­bly — note that I used a lot more round-overs in this build

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!

Assem­bled sec­ond stool before fin­ish applied
Cicero crafted stamp

  1. 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! []

Hard Shop Lesson

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.

The same pow­er sander I have. The disc spins counter-clock­wise. I don’t even have any pho­tos of my own of this pow­er tool!

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.

Family Game Night

We try to have a week­ly fam­i­ly game night. Usu­al­ly, this is a board game or sim­i­lar. The kids know that I have a bunch of old D&D books and are gen­er­al­ly famil­iar with the game. A cou­ple of weeks ago, a new D&D Essen­tials box set was released. This incor­po­rates a new mech­a­nism so that it’s eas­i­er for just 2 or 3 peo­ple to play (the game is typ­i­cal­ly best for 4–6 peo­ple and I don’t have that many kids). So I just off-hand­ed­ly checked that our Tar­get had the box set and asked if the kids want­ed to go with me to get it. I was sur­prised that my daugh­ter and my son were excit­ed to go out after 8pm to pick it up.

Yep, they’re def­i­nite­ly my kids.

They asked to play when we got home, so we stayed up until about 11pm rolling up some char­ac­ters and start­ing out on a first adven­ture (the one includ­ed in this boxed set). They did­n’t get a chance to fight any mon­sters but still seemed to have a good time. They’ve already asked to play again this week­end!

Recycled Tool Stand

Ten years ago — not long after we moved into this house — my younger broth­er and I built a pair of work­bench­es. I designed a “tall” work bench for stand­ing and a “short” work bench that I could sit at (aka, a desk). The idea was that I’d do elec­tron­ics or oth­er work at the desk. How­ev­er, “near wood­work­ing tools” is a pret­ty lousy place to do sol­der­ing , etc. and this end­ed up just being a place to pile scraps and store my drill press, band saw, and pow­er sander. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, to use any of those then, I had to haul it out of the cor­ner and put it on anoth­er space. They’re not ter­ri­bly heavy but none of this was ide­al. So I had decid­ed I’d tear out the “low” bench and put rolling tool stands in that space. If I’m going to move these tools out to use them, it should at least be eas­i­er to do!

Thurs­day morn­ing, I just so hap­pened on Face­book to catch that my neigh­bor post­ed he was giv­ing away an old rolling stand. It looked per­fect so I drove over (two blocks away) to grab it. Pret­ty quick­ly though I real­ized this was for far larg­er tools than I own.1 I could­n’t even shut the door on the Pilot! For­tu­nate­ly, Angela was out of town so she did­n’t need to park in the garage. Yes­ter­day, I tore out most of that “low” bench in order to be able to park the stand in place. You can see that it took up almost the entire 4′ x 3′ space! Those slant­ed legs were fine for a very heavy piece of equip­ment, but my Ryobi band saw and Wen pow­er sander weigh maybe 80 lbs com­bined. I did need to bend one of the cast­er mounts such that it was lev­el with the oth­ers. This would­n’t be the last time I got to bend some met­al on this thing.

He must be very tall to have tak­en the pic­ture at that angle!

So I knew I want­ed to re-tool the stand such that the legs are ver­ti­cal. I gave it some thought and real­ized that I could piv­ot the legs about one out of the three bolts that con­nect each side of each leg (i.e., two bolts on each leg — one for each con­nect­ing side). I had mea­sured out and cut a bot­tom shelf from the “low” desk’s MDF sur­face so I had some­thing to align the legs to. Then I could just use my lev­el and speed square to get the leg align­ment. I used a white paint mark­er to mark the four new holes and num­ber each of the points so I could re-attach them (nom­i­nal­ly it would­n’t mat­ter, but it just helps to reduce error when things oth­er­wise don’t align because noth­ing’s “nom­i­nal”).

After remov­ing 2/3 of the leg bolts, I could rotate the legs to ver­ti­cal

I used the drill press and my step bit to drill the holes. Drilling steel is sig­nif­i­cant­ly more dif­fi­cult than drilling alu­minum (which can be gen­er­al­ly cut with wood­work­ing blades or bits). I recent­ly read Adam Sav­age’s book “Every Tool’s a Ham­mer” in which he has a chap­ter titled “Use More Cool­ing Flu­id” and, man, is that every sound advice for cut­ting steel. I typ­i­cal­ly call it cut­ting flu­id, but giv­en the amount of smoke I was gen­er­at­ing, it was def­i­nite­ly get­ting hot. Also, unlike alu­minum, steel is going to have burs that need to be filed off, even when cut­ting with a step bit. So I had to clean up each of the six­teen holes drilled.

Always use lots of cut­ting flu­id when drilling steel

I got the legs re-assem­bled and cut a top sur­face (also cut from the old bench’s MDF sur­face). I did have to replace a few of the bolts with spoiled threads but I hap­pened to have some spare 1/4″ bolts & nuts. It was at that point that I real­ized that the sur­faces of bent steel that were for­mer­ly par­al­lel to the floor were now about 10° out of flat. Enter the 5 lbs sledge. I basi­cal­ly whacked the hell out of the top lip all around until the to sur­face lay near­ly flat. Using some screws through the mount holes then got it nice and lev­el.

It may be only 5 lbs, but I wore myself out swing that ham­mer today

The cast­ers are the thread­ed bolt post type. If you’ve nev­er seen these before, please know that they are the worst. The end of the thread­ed rod is some weird star thing (no, not a Torx bit) which you can­not hold and just spins with the bolt. So, there’s no real good way to loosen a stuck nut — of which I had two. My design required that these cast­ers come off so that I could use them to also mount the bot­tom shelf. So, some Liq­uid Wrench and some vice grips to hold the thread­ed rod (which mess­es up the threads some, but was­n’t impor­tant as that’s where the shelf now sits), I pre­vailed.

I absolute­ly love Vice Grips. I used those a lot on tak­ing all these bent pieces of steel, too.

I final­ly drilled some holes in the cor­ner of the low­er shelf so I could sand­wich that shelf with the leg bot­tom and the cast­er nut & wash­er. I had to use the sledge to some­what flat­ten out the base of each leg. Oth­er­wise the cast­ers would all be at a tilt towards the cen­ter of the cart and it would be mis­er­able to move around. This ham­mer­ing allowed me to get the nut start­ed on the cast­er thread­ed rod. I could then tight­en it enough to make the entire thing stur­dy again.

Hard to believe that’s the same cart! It fits per­fect­ly and is exact­ly what I need­ed.

So, this was a sim­ple adjust­ment that took me about five hours of work. I could­n’t be hap­pi­er with the results, though. It rolls smooth­ly, is plumb and lev­el, and fits per­fect­ly into a tight area. I may put anoth­er shelf into this (I still have plen­ty of left­over MDF!) so that I can store sander belts, band saw blades, fence, etc. But for a project that I did­n’t have to buy a sin­gle item for, this is exact­ly what I need­ed for this space.

  1. He has con­vert­ed on bay of a 3‑car garage to a very nice wood shop with nice pow­er tools. []

Battery Charging Station

This is a small project I came up with an evening last week after clean­ing up my shop bench some. I’ve always just sat my bat­tery charg­ers on top of the bench area, but they take up pre­cious space there. After get­ting anoth­er Ryobi quick charg­er recent­ly, I fig­ured it was time to make a ded­i­cat­ed space for these.

Small set of shelves for bat­tery charg­ers and bat­ter­ies

There’s not short­age of shop projects for this same pur­pose, but it seems that most folks area ok with putting their charg­ers on a shelf semi-per­ma­nent­ly. I fig­ured I’d need to occa­sion­al­ly get the charg­ers off the shelf as well, so I built in a small chase so the cords don’t inter­fere with the French cleat sys­tem and can easy come out.

The dimen­sions of this project are very spe­cif­ic to the set of charg­ers I have (two dif­fer­ent Ryobi and a Bosch), as you can see here. How­ev­er, I’ve post­ed my set of plans below and it should be easy to change the dimen­sions for dif­fer­ent charg­ers. Just make sure to account for the pow­er cords!

My three charg­ers squeezed per­fect­ly into 1′-5 1/2″ by 5″

I used pock­et holes to assem­ble the entire project (edit — which was made entire­ly from 3/4″ maple veneer ply­wood I already had on hand from repair­ing my kid’s bed). 28 pock­et holes is a lot for some­thing this small, but when the back is split as in this design, I want­ed to makes sure it was plen­ty rigid. I could have glued it up as well, but by the time got it all dry fit, I fig­ured that would be overkill. I can always dis­as­sem­ble it and glue it lat­er. The real trick with this was get­ting to all those pock­et holes. Basi­cal­ly, but the shelf fronts on first and then put the back/sides onto the shelves.

Yes, I put eleven pock­et holes in a 5″ by 17 1/2″ shelf

Anoth­er small thing that made this lit­tle project fun: my table saw sled. I’d real­ly been some­what dis­ap­point­ed in using it. I put a decent amount of work into get­ting it right but it just was­n’t slid­ing well. I’d sand­ed the run­ners down as much as could (more and I fig­ured there be too much slop). So I just hap­pened to buy some paste wax today as I’d seen it men­tioned. It real­ly should be stressed more: put paste wax on your table saw sled run­ners! The sled glides along with very lit­tle force now and cross-cuts are a breeze!

My mas­sive table saw sled on my lit­tle Ryobi table saw works great after adding some paste wax!

So this was a good lit­tle project and went off with (almost) no mis­takes thanks to putting in some decent plan­ning and tak­ing plen­ty of mea­sure­ments of what I want­ed to store. I saw almost, as the cut-out above the bot­tom shelf to accom­mo­date the AC adapter was ini­tial­ly cut with­out account­ing for the bot­tom shelf depth. Anoth­er quick pass on the band saw and it fit fine.

The after­noon sun creep­ing into my work­space

In case you can’t quite read those sheets on my rolling work­bench, here are my plans for any­one so inclined to build some­thing like this. One poten­tial mod­i­fi­ca­tion would be to put some han­dles (either hard­ware attached to the top of the sides or hand­holds cut into the sides) and a bungie cord across the front of the low­er shelf. That way, with just unplug­ging one cord, I could take all my charg­ers with me.