Did someone say Star Wars?! https://t.co/e6vVm5wW2p
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there should always be a line that’s “Black Coffee Only.”
I really make a point to try to learn something new with each maker project I do. Whether it’s a woodworking project, a guitar effect, or some other hobby project, I want to add in at least something new to each one. First, it just keeps things from feeling redundant. But also it helps to expand my skills.
I’ve needed to make a guitar pedal board for a couple of years now. Mostly just to clean up the corner of my office where my amp and effects sit. It’s not like I’m ever going on tour or anything. I figured the metal frame I made in my intro to metalworking class would be fun to use as a basis for a pedal board. Up until now, it’s just been sitting in our garage; leaning against a wall. Of course, the more I started planning, I quickly realized it was really just a decoration around an otherwise wooden stool (albeit a short and slanted stool; that’s really all this is). I had wanted to put a shallow rabbet around the edge of the board so the top of the steel frame would be flush with the wood. I tried using both a router bit and my table saw and both were pretty much complete failures. Oddly enough, the sample board I tried on the router worked fine, but that was with the veneer grain running along the direction of the rabbet. When I tried using parallel grain on the “real” board, it just shredded the veneer. The table saw gave a cleaner cut but was just far less accurate (and wasn’t much cleaner than the router).1
So, I basically just build my pedal board out of 3/4″ plywood to dimensions that I could slide the metal frame over it. The pedals don’t sit entirely flat, but they work fine for my needs still. I still need to get some more Velcro tape to attach them (which would just mainly help allow me to up the power cords underneath). It’s probably a bit too tall to be very practical and I’ll almost certainly replace it at some point. Whether or not I try to include the metal frame is another matter…
I almost made through August without posting about a project. Then again, I almost made it throughout August without actually completing a project, as well.
I decided to get around to a project I’d been wanting to do for a few years now: a cart for my drill press. This is part of the bigger project to revamp my garage shop and, eventually, clean up the garage as a whole. I started by tearing our an old workbench and putting my bandsaw and power sander on a cart. That bench was also where my drill press resided since I first got it and it had been moved to my main bench (along with all the other junk in my garage it seems). So the idea would be to make a relatively small cart with some drawers and storage for “drill” related items. I’m pretty pleased with how everything turned out, especially since there were a few new skills on this one.
First, I decided I’d model the project in CAD so I could make sure everything fit. I would be making drawers on slides for the first time, so I figured it was important to get the measurements right. I ended up using SketchUp since they have a free version for makers (that runs on the Mac). It’s a pretty nice program and I figured out to model my project as well as generate a cut sheet.
This morning I got to actually cutting and assembling. The cabinet for the cart isn’t especially large, but almost everything was larger than I could actually cut on my table saw. So I had to break down most of the pieces using my circular saw and my homemade track. It’s a more tedious setup and it has the drawback of not being able to make repeat cuts. I managed to make a passably square cabinet carcass. My assembly jigs came in handy getting the carcass together, too. I used pocket holes and glue.
I also followed April Wilkerson’s advice and glued up a double-thick top (1.5″ total of plywood as the entire cabinet is 3/4″ maple plywood) as the drill press is heavy and will cause long-term sagging if not well supported. I differed from her cart as a intentionally had the sides butt onto the top and bottom such that the pocket hole / glue joint isn’t in direct shear from the load. It exposed the pocket holes in the lower cabinet opening, but no one in the garage is going to complain. This also allowed me to place the castor at the very corners of the bottom shelf without concern of the lag screws splitting the sides.
I had an existing piece of 1/4″ birch plywood that I used for the back panel. Before attaching it, I added in the divider which is hidden by the bottom drawer. This goes to add a bit of stability to the cart and also helped in installed the drawers. I used a trim router bit to clean up the 1/4″ back as it was just slightly wider than my 16″ width. The carcass was just a bit off square, but I was able to nudge it just a bit when screwing on the back such that it trued up. That’s where taking some time with the main butt / pocket hole joints paid off.
While the wipe-on poly was curing on the main cabinet, I got to work on the drawers. I used Brad Rodriguez’ general design for the drawers. Once I broke down the 1/2″ birch plywood into two pieces, I could finally batch out the drawer pieces on the table saw. I set up the fence to rip the false fronts and the moved the fence again to rip the 4″ drawer sides. I made sure to place the drawer slides and sides into the cabinet opening to measure for the width. I could then use my cross-cut sled to get my final pieces. Of course for the 1/4″ plywood drawer bottoms, I still needed to use the circular saw. I assembled the drawers with pocket holes (laid out such that they’ll be hidden once in place. You may notice that I didn’t use drawer pulls but went with just notched handles (again, somewhat inspired by April Wilkerson here along with some of our IKEA drawers). This coincidentally allowed me to easily clamp on the false fronts while getting them attached. I used the band saw to cut out the notches and then the power sander just to clean things up and get right up to my lines (and I should add that having those on a cart is also great!).
Getting the drawer slides installed was pretty straight forward, although I managed to get the spacing off some. Nothing critical, just that the slides are at different depths on the top versus bottom drawer. As of right now, the drawers are only held together with the pocket holes and 5/8″ screws for the bottoms. I did this to “dry fit” them as I wasn’t 100% sure they’d fit in the slides (it’s tight to be for sure). If they don’t bind up as I use them, I’ll probably take them back apart and glue them together. I probably would have done so today, but this “small” project ended up taking me over 8 hours so I just swept up the garage and called it a day. The good news is that I had some additional storage to put things away when cleaning up that I didn’t have this morning!
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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.
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!
I’m taking my old iMac in tomorrow for one last time. That is, I’m dropping it off at FedEx to have shipped off to the recycling center. That was my first Mac and it served me well. I had it upgraded a couple of times (remember when you could do that to a Mac?) and even had to use AppleCare once to replace the video board. That combined with a couple of family moves, and I’ve kept the original box around all these years so I could box it up and take it some place. See, as much as I love the design of the Intel iMacs, they’re pretty awkward to lug around (at least the 24″ model I have — I know, sad story). I even put the original foam cover back over it from the first unboxing.
I had the original drive replaced with the first 1TB drives on the market: the Hitachi Deskstar. Between that and the 8GB of RAM and giant screen, this thing felt luxurious… for about three years or so. After the last OS upgrade or so, it got really slow to use. Then finally, that Hitachi drive gave out. I had an external clone of the drive I could boot from and run, but that seemed even slower. So I ultimately decided to get a laptop (by then Angela was on her third Mac laptop).
So it ended up sitting on the floor of my office for several years. I had meant to swap out the drive and restore it, but honestly it wouldn’t even really run the games my kids want to play (Minecraft recommends OS 10.12, which this machine couldn’t come close to running). So, the computer I got before my daughter was even born is now headed out the door. I’ve recycled many, many computers over the years. In fact, Angela doesn’t have any of those three Mac laptops anymore, even (she’s gone full iPad). But this machine is the one I’ve had the hardest time getting rid of.
As Marie Kondo would have me do, it’s time to thank it for its service and send it on its way. So I finally got around to cracking open the case. Since I can’t boot off the drive, it’s not very easy to format it (and removing it is easier than running DBAN for hours and hours). If you work on Macs, then you have to have a Torx driver set. I’d augment that to say you should have a magnetic Torx driver set, as I had to pull and replace the eight screws around the monitor with tweezers. It ended up not being such a terrible task as I’d feared all this time, but I couldn’t guarantee that the screen still works, either.
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.
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”).
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Real men leave their threatened manliness messages carved in wood of trees they felled and made using bone tools of animals they hunted. Just sayin’
This sticker was found on a baby changing station in the men’s bathroom pic.twitter.com/HiSixQIpoy
— SheRatesDogs (@SheRatesDogs) June 16, 2019