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 no short­age of shop projects for this same pur­pose, but it seems that most folks are ok with putting their charg­ers on a shelf semi-per­ma­nent­ly. I fig­ured I would need to occa­sion­al­ly get the charg­ers off the shelf as well. So I built in a small chase such that the cords won’t inter­fere with the French cleat sys­tem and can eas­i­ly 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 with the back 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 had real­ly been 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). I just hap­pened to buy some paste wax today as I’d seen it men­tioned in some videos. 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 say 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.

The Bazz Fuss

You know a pro­jec­t’s been lin­ger­ing too long when your son — who could­n’t care less about gui­tar or effects ped­als — won­ders into your office one day, points to a jum­ble of wires and com­po­nents, and asks “are you ever going to fin­ish this thing?” 

That “thing” is the bazz fuss cir­cuit I sol­dered onto a perf­board sev­er­al months ago. I had watched Paul of DIY Gui­tar Ped­als put togeth­er his “5 minute fuzz” effect and had read an arti­cle on Sey­mour Dun­can’s site about build­ing the effect with some nice mods to the orig­i­nal cir­cuit. Some more details about the orig­i­nal effect are avail­able here, but essen­tial­ly it seems Chris­t­ian Hem­mo devel­oped a fuzz effect for the bass that used the fewest com­po­nents pos­si­ble (and still gen­er­ate a decent effect, any­way). The design is extreme­ly ele­gant and pro­duces a nice “dirt” fuzz effect (prob­a­bly per­fect for bass gui­tar). Hem­mo’s orig­i­nal site is long lost on the inter­net (ah, Angelfire.com! — still avail­able via Archive.org, though, of course) but his cir­cuit lives on.

The bazz fuss effect on a bread­board with labeled controls

I built my first attempt at a Bazz Fuss effect by wiring the com­po­nents in my bread­board, fol­low­ing along with the Sey­mour Dun­can arti­cle (seri­ous­ly can­not rec­om­mend that arti­cle enough). I went through the var­i­ous iter­a­tions on the bread­board in the arti­cle and end­ed up with the “mod­ded” ver­sion there-in. I even tried adding a bat­tery sag con­trol as well, to emu­late a bat­tery los­ing its charge which sounds good on some effects. This par­tic­u­lar effect is one in which it basi­cal­ly just no longer has enough volt­age to make any noise, so it just kills the sound below that thresh­old. This is the bread­board­ed effect that I used to demon­strate my test rig, in fact.

Inspired by this Make video on cir­cuit skills on using perf­board to quick­ly build a cir­cuit, I fig­ured I’d try sol­der­ing the com­po­nents down. I just bent over some longer leads and sol­dered them to make more-or-less a ground rail and a pow­er rail, and then built the cir­cuit from there. I sketched it all out on graph paper before hand, but the cir­cuit is so sim­ple I had near­ly half of the perf­board free after sol­der­ing everything.

My ini­tial perf­board circuit

And so this sat on my shelf for months until my son asked about it. I fig­ured I real­ly did need to wrap this thing up before mov­ing on to any oth­er projects. I had pur­chased a blue pow­der-coat­ed enclo­sure for my treme­lo kit ped­al and had already trans­ferred the guts of that effect to its new home. So I had an enclo­sure that only need­ed a cou­ple of holes made larger.

I should note here that I use exter­nal nut AC jacks on all my builds. Yes, they stick out fur­ther and are less attrac­tive. But, here’s my reasoning:

  • all the oth­er exter­nal com­po­nents (except LEDs) already have exter­nal nuts
  • I found that the extra 1/4″ of depth pro­vid­ed using an exter­nal nut AC jack real­ly helped in a 1590A enclo­sure, such as my Micro Amp clone
  • most impor­tant­ly: I can pull the guts of a ped­al out with­out hav­ing to cut a sin­gle wire; noth­ing is actu­al­ly even nec­es­sar­i­ly wired after going into the enclo­sure at all this way!

In the spir­it of recy­cling old parts, one of the resis­tors I had pulled from my Cry­Ba­by Wah mod was the right val­ue for the LED resis­tor! I don’t even know why I both­ered sav­ing it, but I was glad I did. I use some of the spare space on the perf­board to mount the LED and the resis­tor. I used a bit of hot glue to hold the LED in place (in fact, that’s the only thing hold­ing the entire board in place!).

The LED hot glued into the enclo­sure — note the old tan, 5% tol­er­ance resistor

I did use sock­ets for both the diode and the tran­sis­tor. I don’t know that I’ll ever swap them out, but I have that option. In fact, Paul of DIY Gui­tar Ped­als has an entire video just com­par­ing dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions. Though my ped­al does­n’t have a ton of gain, it sounds pret­ty good using the BAT41 diode and MPSA13 tran­sis­tor. You can see where I used a sharpie to mark the ori­en­ta­tion for both, as well, because I won’t remem­ber should I ever want to swap them out. On the sub­ject of trou­bleshoot­ing, I spent a lot of time trou­bleshoot­ing this build only to ulti­mate­ly deter­mine the A100k put for the vol­ume was just a bad pot! So I def­i­nite­ly don’t want any more headaches try­ing to fig­ure out the cor­rect ori­en­ta­tion for a diode or tran­sis­tor. I even got so para­noid, I lined the back of the pots and the back of the perf­boad with elec­tri­cal tape to ensure noth­ing shorts!

Over­all, it’s not the pret­ti­est build I’ve done but it is com­plete, works, and sounds pret­ty good. I’m proud that I was able to lay­out the com­po­nents in an effi­cient way (which is of course impor­tant to print­ed cir­cuit board lay­outs, which I hope to try out at some point). 

The fin­ished wiring. What a rat’s nest!

Game of Thrones Has Ended

…but A Song of Fire & Ice has not. I’m actu­al­ly sev­er­al sea­sons behind on the show so I did­n’t even watch the finale last night. While I’m some­what avoid­ing spoil­ers, I’m not too con­cerned about it. Because it became very clear to fans of the books series from about sea­son 2 or 3 that HBO would fin­ish the show long before George R.R. Mar­tin ever fin­ished his nov­els. So how­ev­er the show end­ed; if it is any­thing like the books ulti­mate­ly end it will be more of a coin­ci­dence than any­thing. Frankly, I doubt they’ll be sim­i­lar at all but time will (hope­ful­ly) tell.

My then girl­friend (now wife), Angela, bought me a paper­back copy of A Game of Thrones from the uni­ver­si­ty book­store in Blacks­burg, VA for a birth­day present after I’d fin­ished the orig­i­nal Dune nov­els. I was start­ing to read for fun again (five years of work­ing towards an engi­neer­ing degree means you don’t read for “fun” much). That book was rec­om­mend­ed to her when she told the book­store clerk I liked Dune. Basi­cal­ly, it was all about pol­i­tics and fam­i­ly intrigue, but only in medieval times. And I real­ly did enjoy it. The third book in the series, A Storm of Swords, had just been released and these books were start­ing to gain pop­u­lar­i­ty. Also, that time, GRRM was crank­ing out these nov­els about every oth­er year!

I did­n’t read the sub­se­quent nov­els for a while as I stopped read­ing much genre fic­tion for a few years (out­side of Dune pre­quels). When I did get back to them, I had dis­cov­ered the joy of audio books. Par­tic­u­lar­ly, get­ting to lis­ten to audio­books to pass the time rock­ing our baby daugh­ter to sleep. That’s when I also dis­cov­ered Roy Dotrice. As much as I enjoyed the first book, hear­ing his nar­ra­tion brought the series to life in a way that’s still hard to describe. I’ve been a fan of Peter Din­klage since “The Sta­tion Agent” but I will always hear the phrase “A Lan­nis­ter always pays his debts.” in a Welsh accent thanks to Dotrice. Don’t get me wrong, the HBO series is fan­tas­tic and the act­ing is won­der­ful. But there’s a rea­son that GRRM want­ed no one by Dotrice to nar­rate the audio­books and it’s clear why. 

“Roy gave his all in the studio,” said Dan Mus­sel­man, a pro­duc­er who worked with Dotrice on the series, by email. “George R.R. Mar­tin want­ed Roy to nar­rate his books, and he was absolute­ly right. Roy was the per­fect nar­ra­tor for the series and no one else could pos­si­bly have done what Roy did with the nar­ra­tive, the sto­ry lines, and espe­cial­ly the char­ac­ters. It was an enor­mous under­tak­ing and worth every minute.”

And he was metic­u­lous in his work and research. The night before record­ing, he would go over pages of notes on the next day’s char­ac­ters. By the end of record­ing all five books, he had every char­ac­ter name list­ed in alpha­bet­i­cal order on more than a dozen pieces of paper. 

The Man Who Spoke ‘Game of Thrones’ Into Existence

And it’s not just that they’re the books and books are always bet­ter than the movie (nay, tele­vi­sion series). When Dotrice was­n’t avail­able to nar­rate the fourth book the pro­duc­ers got John Lee, one of the finest nar­ra­tors alive today. I have lis­tened to a dozen books he’s read (most­ly Alis­tair Reynolds or Peter F. Hamil­ton), but it just was­n’t the same for A Feast for Crows.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Dotrice passed away in 2017 and he won’t get to fin­ish the series. No one knows when those books will be done and who’ll nar­rate the audio­books. I’m sure to read and lis­ten to them once they come out, regard­less of who nar­rates them — or who the HBO show run­ners put on the iron throne. But I’ll still have Roy Dotrice’s voic­es in my head as I read the words.

I.M. Pei

Four­teen years ago, when Angela and I vis­it­ed Paris, I took this pho­to inside the Lou­vre pyra­mid. I post­ed it to Flickr with the attached caption.

The glass pyra­mid at the Lou­vre, designed by I.M. Pei. Usu­al­ly referred to as the “con­tro­ver­sial” pyra­mid. I was in awe, if you can’t tell by this photo.

Pei passed away yes­ter­day at the age of 102 after hav­ing for­ev­er changed archi­tec­ture around the world.