Good News About Black Holes

For the moment, CNN’s head­line is about grad stu­dent Katie Bouman who helped accom­plish some­thing extra­or­di­nary because she’s real­ly bril­liant. The world’s pret­ty messed up, but for its great to see smart peo­ple get famous for awe­some things.

Thank this grad student for first black hole image

[Adden­dum: Dr. Bouman gave a TedX Talk a cou­ple of years ago on how a com­put­er sci­en­tist such as her­self end­ed up work­ing on a globe-span­ning astro­physics project and how the her imag­ing algo­rithm would even­tu­al­ly help make the image pos­si­ble.]

LED Wiring

This is a basic ele­ment of many elec­tron­ics projects: how to wire up an LED with a cur­rent lim­it­ing resis­tor. Most effects have a 5 mm LED and many wiring dia­grams show a 4k7Ω resis­tor. There’s a fair­ly wide range of val­ues you can use, depend­ing on how bright you want the LED (and what the LED’s specs are). You can cal­cu­late out the exact val­ue to use if you have the specs for an LED, but using a 4k7Ω works well enough for most sit­u­a­tions.

What’s a bit less obvi­ous is how to sol­der a resis­tor’s legs to an LED leg and the con­nect­ing wires. Here’s my method:

  1. Using a pair of craft tweez­ers, I roll up the pos­i­tive leg of the LED.
  2. Then take the resis­tor leg and bend it through this loop, then twist it around once. This forms a chain-like con­nec­tion.
  3. Sol­der this con­nec­tion and then trim the resis­tor leg back.
  4. Curl up the out­stand­ing leg of the resis­tor in a sim­i­lar fash­ion.
  5. Bend the tinned tip of your hookup wire at a 90° and hook around this loop to sol­der just like you would a jack con­nec­tion.
  6. Curl up the neg­a­tive leg and sol­der a 90° bend from anoth­er hookup wire to this end.
  7. Apply heat-shrink tub­ing over both con­nec­tions. I picked up using the bar­rel of sol­der­ing iron from Collin of CS Gui­tars.

You could do NASA-spec sol­der joints if you want, but this is typ­i­cal­ly more than strong enough for con­nec­tions. As for the resis­tor, it does­n’t real­ly mat­ter which leg you attach it (that is, before or after the LED in the cir­cuit) as it will have the same effect. How­ev­er, by def­i­n­i­tion, cur­rent will only flow through a diode in one direct, so it does mat­ter that you have the LED leads clear­ly iden­ti­fied. That’s why I try to be con­sis­tent with using red as the pos­i­tive (and typ­i­cal­ly black for the neg­a­tive, but I was out of black hook-up wire dur­ing this par­tic­u­lar project).

Shop Air Filter Installation

My garage is sort of orga­nized, but it’s cov­ered in dust. I knew it was get­ting bad and so I ordered a rel­a­tive­ly inex­pen­sive air fil­ter for shop spaces. I’d had my eye on the WEN 3410 3‑speed air fil­ter for a while. Home Depot has the best price for this item, but it’s rou­tine­ly out-of-stock. It came back in stock in Feb­ru­ary so I ordered one then. It arrived, I plugged it up just to make sure it worked, and then it sat on my work­bench for the past 6 weeks or so.

The WEN Air Fil­ter installed

I had pur­chased the nec­es­sary hang­ing hard­ware a cou­ple of weeks lat­er, but still did­n’t get around to hang­ing it up. You see, our garage has real­ly high ceil­ings (12′-6″) and the dinky 12″ chains that are packed in the box weren’t going to cut it. The instruc­tions state to hang it at least 7′ above the floor, but I’m pret­ty sure 11′ in the air isn’t going to cap­ture a lot of dust. I pur­chased some pre-punched angle and about 20′ of 300lb chain. But still, this all sat on the work­bench (ok, so maybe my garage is less orga­nized than I’d like…).

So, today I final­ly decid­ed it would the be the day to install this thing. And appar­ent­ly none too soon. My son want­ed to go over to his friend’s house but told me he did­n’t want to ride his bike because it was cov­ered in dust (he’s not wrong, but we got it down and aired the tires any­way).

My first time cut­ting steel with a cut­ting wheel on an angle grinder

So the angle I pur­chas­es was a 4′ sec­tion, and I need­ed to cut it in half. I also bought a cut­ting wheel for my angle grinder. This was actu­al­ly the first time I’d ever cut steel with an angle grinder. I did wear a full face shield but did­n’t cov­er my arms. The sparks were min­i­mal, but I would­n’t want­ed to have cut sev­er­al that way. I could have uses the same cut­ting wheel to cut the chains to length, but my bolt cut­ter was faster.

The first angel and chains installed (that’s a 9′ lad­der by the way)

After that, it was just a mat­ter of get­ting the angles lag screwed into the ceil­ing joists. I used some thread­ed quick links to attach the chains, just in case the unit start­ed swing­ing around. That proved to not be a prob­lem. Frankly, this was prob­a­bly all overkill to hang a 31 lb unit, but it’s room to grow if I need some­thing big­ger.

I had to add an exten­sion cord to get it plugged into the same out­let as my garage door open­er and my retractable exten­sion cord­By the way, the retractable exten­sion cord is one of the sin­gle best items I’ve got­ten for my shop. Between that and my rolling work­bench, it feels like hav­ing a whole new shop area.. Then it was ready to test. Admit­ted­ly, this isn’t a very pow­er­ful air fil­ter. At full speed, it’s 400 cfm. For­tu­nate­ly, that’s not enough to get it mov­ing hang­ing from hose 4′-6″ chains.

Air fil­ter and garage door motor shar­ing some ceil­ing space

I don’t yet have much of a sense of how well it works, but it gets pret­ty good reviews. I’ll put it to the test soon enough by tak­ing my air com­pres­sor to start blow­ing dust off of every­thing.

Amp Channel Footswitch

Most amps have the abil­i­ty to use an exter­nal footswitch to change between a clean and dis­tor­tion chan­nel. Of course, some have more sophis­ti­cat­ed options than this, but the chan­nel switch is a pret­ty com­mon fea­ture. My old­er broth­er recent­ly got an awe­some-look­ing, orange Fend­er Duo-Son­ic and a small Fend­er prac­tice amp to play it through. This lit­tle Mus­tang amp has a lot of pre­sets and he can use a footswitch to select between a pair of them. Of course, it being an afford­able prac­tice amp, the footswitch is sold sep­a­rate­ly.

But a footswitch is a pret­ty easy thing to make your­self. In my case, I had the dou­ble pole sin­gle throw (DPST) footswitch tak­en out of my Dun­lop Wah ped­al when I mod­ded it (post to come some­day!) and an old stereo audio jack. That, a bit of wire, and some­thing to put it in is all you need! In fact, the fact that it was a dou­ble pole switch and a stereo jack made them both overkill for this small project! But why not recy­cle the parts for a good cause?

I pur­chased a pow­der-coat­ed 1590LB enclo­sure from Mam­moth Elec­tron­ics. At 2″ by 2″ by 1″ tall, this is about as small an enclo­sure as you can get, but plen­ty big for a small switch and a jack. I got the orange to match his gui­tar (well, as close as I can get with stock pow­der coat col­ors, any­way). I laid out the switch and jack to ensure I could arrange them how I want­ed; though I could have also just had the jack on the “side” of the enclo­sure. The cir­cuit sol­der­ing here is super-sim­ple: just sol­der the “tip” lug of the jack to the cen­ter lug of one of the poles (three of the lugs in a line make a pole). Then sol­der the “sleeve” lug of the jack to either the left or right lug on the same poll of the switch. That’s it! Did you mess up and wire the sleeve to the cen­ter lug on the switch? It’s still fine! All this does is con­nect the tip to the sleeve when the switch is “on” and then breaks the cir­cuit between the two when it’s off.

Now, this par­tic­u­lar build relies on an instru­ment cable to con­nect the footswitch to your amp. But you don’t have to use a shield­ed cable for this as the gui­tar sig­nal itself isn’t pass­ing through that cable; just a rel­a­tive­ly low volt­age (around 4–5v1) is flow­ing through to tell the amp the gain chan­nel should be on. So you could actu­al­ly skip the jack and just use any old wire (speak­er cable, a lamp cord, etc.) and wire that into a 1/4″ audio cable end. I was just using as many spare parts as I could. In fact, I fin­ished the bot­tom by cut­ting up a kitchen jar grip pad and glu­ing it to the bot­tom with spray adhe­sive (it won’t slide on his hard­wood floor!).

Giv­en that the Fend­er sin­gle footswitch costs around $15, this prob­a­bly is not much of a cheap­er alter­na­tive. But it was a fun gift for my broth­er and if you’re inter­est­ed in prac­tic­ing some sol­der­ing, this is a great and prac­ti­cal project to start with!

So, amaz­ing­ly enough, there’s a video in which YouTube chan­nel Mer­win­Mu­sic makes the exact same footswitch as mine — down to the orange col­or! Check it out! He also does a great job of explain­ing how to test out that this sort of switch works with your amp before you go to the trou­ble of build­ing one, which is a good idea as some amps may vary (but all good amps just copy Leo’s orig­i­nal!).

I built this exact same project almost!
  1. The volt­age is low enough that my Black­star head­’s footswitch does­n’t even have a resis­tor on the LED. []

Mini MicroAmp Build

With each new ped­al build, I try to focus on some aspect that makes it a new chal­lenge or some­thing new to learn. My first ped­al build ever (about 18 months ago) was a boost ped­al. I decid­ed I’d build anoth­er boost: this one using the MXR MicroAmp cir­cuit. I used the Gen­er­al Gui­tar Gad­gets MAMP PCB, which in addi­tion to sell­ing the PCB sells entire kits and has excel­lent doc­u­men­ta­tion1. Since it’s a rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple cir­cuit and, there­fore a fair­ly small PCB, I want­ed to try to fit it into a “mini” enclo­sure (i.e., a 1590A for­mat). This means hav­ing to real­ly think ahead about aspects of the build so that every­thing can squeeze into such a rel­a­tive­ly small enclo­sure.

The com­plet­ed enclo­sure, includ­ing the mis-aligned hole for the input jack on the right side

The first thing is that this ped­al for­mat can’t uti­lize a bat­tery for pow­er; the ped­al will be AC pow­ered only. That’s fine as I don’t use bat­ter­ies in any ped­al any­way and only ever added a bat­tery snap to that first ped­al build. Sec­ond­ly, the height of the com­po­nents real­ly mat­ters. The taller com­po­nents (gen­er­al­ly, the capac­i­tors) had to be bent over. For the elec­trolyt­ic capac­i­tors, I had to remove and replace a cou­ple in order to facil­i­tate this (I had planned ahead oth­er­wise — as my sketched notes on the wiring dia­gram shows below, but I am just so in the habit of sol­der­ing the com­plete­ly ver­ti­cal I for­got!). In the end, the tallest com­po­nent off the PCB was the inte­grat­ed cir­cuit (IC), as it was mount­ed in a sock­et. This way I can poten­tial­ly swap out ICs in the future. Speak­ing of ICs, I went with a low-noise TL071 op-amp (in place of the orig­i­nal ped­al’s TLo61 — which con­sumes less cur­rent but, again, I’m not using a bat­tery so I don’t real­ly care about that). The only oth­er mod­i­fi­ca­tion I made to the GGG cir­cuit was that I swapped out a 10MΩ in place of the 22MΩ pull-down resis­tor (R1). Real­ly, any fair­ly large (<1MΩ) resis­tor val­ue will do here and 22MΩ are a lit­tle hard­er to find.

The com­plet­ed wiring. This was a tight fit! Notice all the taller capac­i­tors look like a strong wind came through.

Last­ly, the arrange­ment of the larg­er off-board com­po­nents such as the footswitch, jacks, LED bezel, and pot real­ly came down to mil­lime­ters. I had to use calipers to mea­sure every last item and metic­u­lous sketch it out on a print­out of the enclo­sure. I still man­aged to mess up drilling one of the jack holes (I locat­ed it 1/2 the diam­e­ter off, which s about the worst place to mess it up!). I was able to re-drill the hole thanks to hav­ing a drill press and some clamp­ing blocks. It’s a bit ugly and the jack­’s nut is a bit crooked, but it worked out fine.

Re-drilling a hole for the out­put jack. Drill press & clamps absolute­ly required to fix this sort of bone-head­ed mis­take.

The ped­al works great. I mean, it’s about as sim­ple an effect as you can get. It sim­ply takes the gui­tar sig­nal and makes it a lot loud­er (prob­a­bly around the order of 20–25db). I’m pret­ty pleased with how clean the wiring worked out, as well.

My build cost around $27 for the parts I had to pur­chase. That’s not includ­ing resis­tors, capac­i­tors, diode, and LED (nor hookup wire and sol­der), all of which I already had in my parts bins but would run you around $3 in total. I also had to pay around $9 in ship­ping. The PCB from GGG for was about $3.50 to ship. I bought parts for sev­er­al builds at once in a large order from Mam­moth Elec­tron­ics (my parts sup­pli­er of choice), but small­er orders from there tend to ship for around $5. They have high-qual­i­ty pow­der-coat­ed enclo­sures for real­ly great prices, along with gen­er­al­ly good prices on oth­er parts and kits. So, in total, this build is roughy around $39 in cost (and I still haven’t added any art­work, so con­sid­er what slide decal or oth­er for­mat might cost).

That being said, unless you real­ly want to build your own, I would not rec­om­mend this build to any­one else. You can pur­chase a TC Elec­tron­ic Spark for about $35 used on Reverb.com (plus ship­ping) right now. It has the exact same size as my build, but has their amaz­ing non-latch­ing (relay) footswitch and essen­tial­ly the same amount of clean boost. If you don’t care about size, you can pur­chase a used MXR MicroAmp for around $49 on Reverb (plus ship­ping). Both of those are sol­id choic­es if you real­ly just want a boost ped­al and are less inter­est­ed in prac­tic­ing your sol­der­ing skills or learn­ing how to lay­out a small ped­al form fac­tor. And hon­est­ly, as much as I think this ped­al sounds great so far, those prob­a­bly sound even bet­ter and have less noise at full gain.

But over­all, I’m pleased with this build. On the clean chan­nel, it just gets loud­er with­out adding any­thing else notice­able. Best of all: with the knob set to about 3 o’clock, it makes my Black­star HT-5R head­’s gain chan­nel absolute­ly breathe fire!

  1. I think I could have pret­ty eas­i­ly build this cir­cuit on perf­board, but prob­a­bly not to fit in the this small of an enclo­sure. So for a bit more cost I opt­ed for the PCB, which has a fair­ly small foot­print. []

Guitar Effect Test Box

I’m in var­i­ous stages of com­ple­tion for sev­er­al gui­tar effects at the moment and I’ll cer­tain­ly try to write a post for each of those in turn. How­ev­er, I first fig­ured I should post about my gui­tar effect PCB test box I put togeth­er. I by no means first came up with the idea. Paul of DIY Gui­tar Ped­als in Aus­tralia is who I first saw use & rec­om­mend one. In search­ing around for fur­ther ideas, I came across some notes on DIY Stomp Box­es about adding the probe, which can be used in diag­nos­ing PCBs that aren’t work­ing.

A MXR MicroAmp cir­cuit hooked up to the test box

As you can see, I went with a fair­ly large enclo­sure for this project. As it’s real­ly just the off-board wiring stan­dard to most any ped­al project, with no cir­cuit board, this is some­what a waste of space. How­ev­er, I want­ed to leave a bit of space for poten­tial­ly adding some more fea­tures at some point in the future1. This is a pow­der-coat­ed, alu­minum enclo­sure which is not at all nec­es­sary for this, as the wiring is out­side so the met­al box isn’t shield­ing any­thing. So the enclo­sure was a bit of a splurge. But as Mam­moth cur­rent­ly sells these 1590BB enclo­sures pow­der coat­ed for under $10, it’s not exact­ly a bank-buster. The entire test box is less than $25, and many of the parts I already had in my parts bin.

I cut up some cheap alli­ga­tor clips I bought off of Amazon.com to use for the con­nec­tors. They have lit­tle cov­ers over the clips, so they work quite well even when con­nect­ing into close­ly spaced wiring leads. I did knot these just inside the box to pro­vide some strain relief (though it’s not as though this thing is get­ting roughed up much). I used a Mam­moth Elec­tron­ics bypass wiring board just to sim­pli­fy things a bit. I tend to use a stan­dard wiring col­ors for all my projects: red for 9v, black for ground, green for sig­nal to board, and yel­low for sig­nal back from board.

The spa­cious guts of my test box

The one trick my box has is that I added a tog­gle switch to use a test­ing probe. This switch basi­cal­ly hi-jacks the sig­nal return (yel­low) and con­nects the probe (white) direct­ly to the box out­put jack. So if sig­nal isn’t com­ing back from the cir­cuit, I can flip this switch and then use the probe (which is noth­ing more than a 1μf capac­i­tor) to touch along the cir­cuit to trace where the fault is. It’s very sim­ple but incred­i­bly help­ful.

So to quote Paul of DY Gui­tar Effects, if you’re going to even build just more than a cou­ple of gui­tar effects your­self, you’re going to want to build some­thing like this. It’s so invalu­able to be able to test your PCB as soon as you get the com­po­nents installed but before you try to com­plete all the off board wiring & stuff­ing it into an enclo­sure. It’s also extreme­ly fun to hook up to a bread­board and test that way!

A Bazz Fuzz bread­board cir­cuit on the test box
My enclo­sure drill pat­tern
Wiring dia­gram for my test box


  1. For exam­ple, I also saw this post where some­one has added in the abil­i­ty to change the volt­age and add a volt­age sag (to sim­u­late a dying bat­tery), which is real­ly cool. []

We Escaped!

Our nephew, Kei­th, invit­ed us to one of the The Escape Game adven­tures. These are real­ly pop­u­lar and I can see why. Any­one who was a fan of point-and-click puz­zle com­put­er games (like me) would love get­ting to be inside the game and that’s exact­ly what this feels like. My old­er broth­er, Stephen, and Kei­th’s fiancé, Jamie, joined us and we had a great team. We were able to divide up for dif­fer­ent tasks and fin­ished with over 11 min­utes to spare for our Mis­sion to Mars adven­ture. The entire facil­i­ty is real­ly nice­ly done and it’s easy to get caught up in the fun and pres­sure of try­ing to solve the puz­zles togeth­er in under 60 min­utes.

The Escape Game: Mission to Mars
We escaped!

I Tried Hot Chicken

No, not that I tried eat­ing hot chick­en. Hav­ing lived near Nashville for over a decade, of course we’ve eat­en hot chick­en. Though, I don’t ever order the crazy hot stuff. I stick to mild and actu­al­ly enjoy eat­ing it.

No, I mean I tried mak­ing my own hot chick­en here at home for fam­i­ly din­ner. It’s no secret that cook­ing isn’t some­thing I real­ly enjoy. I’m start­ing to enjoy it more as I’ve learned to suc­cess­ful­ly cook some things beyond a cold-cut sand­wich. Angela real­ly enjoys cook­ing (and is also real­ly good at it), but her style is more of exper­i­men­ta­tion. I’m one who can fol­low direc­tions so if they’re clear­ly writ­ten, then I can gen­er­al­ly pull it off rea­son­able well. A few years ago, we start­ed Blue Apron meals and more recent­ly made Hel­lo Fresh meals. Both are great and I learned a lot about cook­ing (and also learned I would­n’t last a day in a pro­fes­sion­al kitchen set­ting). I also learned about fry­ing a bit more. Doing some more research, I found a real­ly good Bob­by Flay recipe for fried chick­en. More impor­tant­ly, fry­ing chick­en for chick­en parme­san — one of my all-time favorite dish­es. So I got some prac­tice mak­ing that at home.

Angela sug­gest­ed I try mak­ing some hot chick­en and I found a copy-cat recipe for Hat­tie B’s chick­en which is arguably just a copy-cat of Bolton’s, but that’s for anoth­er day. I used a lot less cayenne than the recipe calls for (that much is crazy) and I used the fry­ing oil as the base for the hot coat­ing. There­fore, mine is a lot brown­er and run­nier than most glam­or shots of hot chick­en. But it did taste pret­ty good and the whole fam­i­ly enjoyed it.

Homemade hot chicken
Home­made hot chick­en

Tremolo Pedal Build

Christ­mas in 2018 was a lot of fun and my fam­i­ly got me a lot of won­der­ful things. Among them, my broth­er, Dave, got me a gui­tar ped­al effects kit. This was a tremo­lo ped­al, which is def­i­nite­ly some­thing I would­n’t have got­ten myself. If you don’t know, a tremo­lo ped­al mod­u­lates the ampli­tude of the sig­nal. That is, it’s as if some­one is turn­ing the vol­ume knob up and down reg­u­lar­ly. This effect was built into many ear­ly elec­tric gui­tar ampli­fiers. In the late 50’s an Aus­tralian elec­tron­ics mag­a­zine had an arti­cle on a rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple cir­cuit for this effect. That design has since been mod­i­fied and incor­po­rat­ed into many pop­u­lar gui­tar effects. The kit I got is by Arca­dia Elec­tron­ics and uses the EA Tremo­lo design.

This kit has all of the com­po­nents, even jacks and switch, all direct­ly sol­dered onto the print­ed cir­cuit board (or PCB). This sim­pli­fies build­ing and is, in fact, what most com­mer­cial ped­als uti­lize to speed up fab­ri­ca­tion (and even allow for auto­mat­ed com­po­nent sol­der­ing). As such, it was a rel­a­tive­ly straight-for­ward build process that prob­a­bly took me under three hours total. And mind you, I am inten­tion­al­ly slow with this things because I want to real­ly enjoy the process and also to pre­vent mak­ing any easy avoid­able mis­takes.

Pop­u­lat­ed PCB for the Aca­dia Tremo­lo ped­al. You can see that I inten­tion­al­ly bent over a cou­ple of the elec­trolyt­ic capac­i­tors to keep them well clear of the Depth con­trol poten­tiome­ter.

The instruc­tions with the Aca­dia kits are very sparse. They basi­cal­ly include of a print­out of the PCB (which is very nice­ly screen print­ed and clear­ly marked, though) and a com­po­nent list. That’s it, there’s no oth­er instruc­tions or build steps giv­en. So, if this was a kit for a new builder, I’d sug­gest down­load­ing the instruc­tions for one of the oth­er Tremo­lo ped­als at Mam­moth Elec­tron­ics. They’re gen­er­al­ly sim­i­lar builds and pro­vide some good infor­ma­tion if you’re new to ped­al build­ing or elec­tron­ics. The Aca­dia kit came with high qual­i­ty com­po­nents. I test­ed some of the resis­tors and they were clos­er to nom­i­nal val­ues than the ones I pur­chase. The sin­gle diode in the kit had legs that real­ly did­n’t fit into the drilled through holes, but I just swapped it out for anoth­er 1N4001 in my parts bin. It’s not that the part was cheap; just that the pcb design as-drilled can’t accom­mo­date this par­tic­u­lar part. There’s prob­a­bly sev­er­al solu­tions to this, but this would be pret­ty frus­trat­ing for a first-time builder, I think. Oth­er­wise, I real­ly have no issues with this kit. It’s the first ped­al build I’ve done that I did­n’t have to trou­bleshoot at least one mis­take!

I labeled the ped­al once it was all closed up for test­ing. I’ll paint and dec­o­rate the case anoth­er day.

I got the hard­ware all sol­dered onto the board. I did add some elec­tri­cal tape to the back of the pots as well as to the inside of the case back. This is prob­a­bly not nec­es­sary, but I want­ed to pre­vent any pos­si­bil­i­ty of the pots or com­po­nents ground­ing out.

The ped­al sounds great. The vol­ume boost on this was pret­ty sur­pris­ing, in fact. Just dial­ing the Rate and Depth con­trols to zero makes this a pret­ty effec­tive clean boost, even. The range of the tremo­lo is all the way from noth­ing to com­plete vol­ume clip­ping. I record­ed a fair­ly poor sam­ple for this post, but the sound is real­ly great in per­son.

Tremo­lo Ped­al Demo

Repairing a Kid’s Bed

As part of my goals for 2019, I am going to try to write about some of my DIY and mak­er projects. So, here’s an unex­pect­ed one to start off the year…

The oth­er evening, I heard a thud and an “uh-oh” from my 11yo daugh­ter’s room. Turns out, when hop­ping on to the bed to read that night, the bed rail snapped. The bed rail was made from press­board, veneered to look like the rest of the fur­ni­ture (which I think is of slight­ly high­er qual­i­ty). Our daugh­ter felt ter­ri­ble about break­ing the bed, but in real­i­ty it’s a won­der it last­ed for the 7 years it did. An aver­age size tod­dler could break this stuff, let alone an aver­age size 11 yo girl. The press­board had cracked in two pieces, right through one of the screw holes for hold­ing the slats.

We con­sid­ered pur­chas­ing a new IKEA bed or sim­i­lar, but she said she real­ly like this bed and would pre­fer if we could just fix it. Maybe that was part­ly her still feel­ing bad for hav­ing done it, despite my wife and I assur­ing her it was­n’t real­ly her fault at all. The only down­side to this was that I was going to have to pur­chase a full size sheet of ply­wood at the big box store to get the 6′-6″ rails out of them. I nor­mal­ly have the store cut the board along the short dimen­sion, so that it’s less than 7′ long as to fit into my Hon­da Pilot. How­ev­er, in hind­sight, I should have had them then rip down some strips to make it eas­i­er to man­age. A 6′-8″ by 4′ sheet of 3/4″ ply­wood is only slight­ly eas­i­er to man­age by your­self than a full size sheet.

Old, press­board rail (bro­ken) and new, improved rails with hard­ware

I did get to try my hand at edge band­ing the ply­wood. Edge band­ing is a nar­row, thin strip of veneer (almost exact­ly like the sur­faces of hard­wood ply­wood) that has a heat-acti­vat­ed glue on the back­side. You sim­ply iron-on this to the edge of your cut ply­wood.1 It’s actu­al­ly a lot of nice fur­ni­ture and cab­i­netry is made and it’s a pret­ty amaz­ing trans­for­ma­tion. Of course, it’s also how a lot of cheap fur­ni­ture is made, too, but that’s often a plas­tic veneer rather than actu­al hard­wood. I could­n’t find maple veneer at my big box store, so I took a trip to my local Wood­craft shop. There, I also got a self-cen­ter­ing drill bit. I’d always con­sid­ered one of those to be for some­one who makes a lot of fur­ni­ture or cab­i­netry, but it’s worth it to buy some even for DIY’ers like me. It’s a huge time­saver for mount­ing hard­ware and real­ly makes the process more accu­rate.

Using a self-cen­ter­ing bit made mount­ing the hard­ware a breeze

So, I ripped down the near­ly full sheet of ply­wood on my lit­tle band saw. Again, I should have had the store cut this down, because it’s just not easy for one per­son to do this on even a high-end cab­i­netry saw, let alone a my small Ryobi2. It result­ed in some not-so-straight cuts, but they were good enough for this as I was­n’t joint­ing any­thing. I straight­ened out some of the bend met­al slat sup­ports in my machine vice and then got all the screw holes drilled out.

I did a small test piece with the edge band­ing and tried using one of those spring loaded edge band­ing trim­mers. The band­ing went on easy, but the trim­mer was not so great. It end­ed up tear­ing the band­ing in a lot of places. I still tried using it one the first rail, which was a mis­take. When try­ing to sand every­thing, the orbital sander grabbed one of those tears and ripped off a huge chunk of the band­ing. For­tu­nate­ly, I was able to cut out that piece by re-heat­ing the glue and Angela helped me put on a patch. It end­ed up look­ing just fine for our kid’s bed, but I learned my les­son. For the sec­ond rail, I sim­ply flipped the piece over and cut along the edge with a box-cut­ter blade. I then light­ly sand­ed over the cor­ner with a sand­ing block.

I used a sin­gle (though pret­ty heavy) coat of wipe-on polyurethane for the fin­ish. The final step was to stamp the work and then it was ready for assem­bly this after­noon. The final clip slid­ing in to place was so sat­is­fy­ing! The maple match­es the fur­ni­ture, but of course it will have to dark­en over time with expo­sure to light to ful­ly match. But, I’m pleased with the final result and I’m con­fi­dent this will last longer than the orig­i­nal.

Stamped and in place
Like new again!
  1. If you want to know more about edge band­ing, Bob of ILTMS made an excel­lent “Bits” video on the sub­ject late last year. []
  2. It’s actu­al­ly my old­er broth­er’s table saw. He just need­ed a place to keep it and I need­ed one to use, so that worked out for us. []