Sunday, October 30, 2016

Quick Office Whiteboard - for Cheap!

Lately I have been working from home more and as I have been outfitting my corner of the bonus room and working on some tricky projects, I thought it was time for a whiteboard.  When it comes to writing software, I really need to get the problem written out and spread out before me so I can take it all in at once. Naturally, this means I need considerable whiteboard space.

I was about to head to Walmart and just quickly get whatever I could, when my wife reminded me we had used shower board in the old root cellar as writable surface.  So I went to Lowes, instead, for a project!

 Shower board has a white glossy side and a dull brown side.  It is somewhat flexible and not terribly thick. It can be cut with a utility knife and easily drilled.

To get it mounted to the wall, I needed a way to hold the weight of the sheet while I drove wood screws through pilot holes into the wall studs.  A quarter inch strip of scrap pine was screwed to the wall temporarily along the bottom of the level line I had drawn on the wall at the 3 foot mark.

The shower board rested easily on the pine and made it painless to get the five screws in along the top.  With the strip still in place, I put five more screws along the bottom all about 3/4" from the edge.

Then it was safe to remove the strip and start cutting the trim boards to fit.  I found some nice looking polystyrene trim boards for $8 each, featuring a burled maple or mahogany print.  While it could be cut with a blade, my goal was to get it done quickly and neatly, so I used the electric miter saw.   The only trouble there was that the hot plastic chips kept fouling the laser guide.

The trim went up easily with my electric brad nailer.  A mahogany colored marker touched up the edges and the end product is functional, not unattractive, and huge!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sketchup Rockinghorse

A friend of mine runs a campground that features horseback riding and equine events. One day while he was pitching ideas to us for expanding the fun on the farm, he asked if I knew anyone who could build some adult sized rocking horses.  Well, of course I volunteered myself for the task... because horses and kids... and my kids love horses.  So I set out to design an easy to build Rocking Horse that could be cut out of one sheet of plywood and assembled with screws and glue.

My own design efforts didn't thrill me, so I moved from paper to Google Sketchup to try and model it.  My transition from Lightwave to Sketchup is far from complete, so I ended up finding a child size Rocking Horse  model in the Sketchup public domain library to work with.

Following a tutorial for using Sketchup to prepare CAM tool paths for Mach3, I took the component geometry for the horse, cleaned it up by closing gaps and removing extra points and lines, and then sank each part into a virtual sheet of 3/4" plywood.  I then deleted the exposed geometry, leaving the outline of each piece on the surface of my sheet of plywood. From there, I took a screenshot, saved it as a jpg and then imported it into Excel so that I could control the scale and page setup to print the image at 1/3rd scale on six sheets of 8-1/2 x 11 paper.  I then used entirely too much glue to secure the trimmed sheets to 1/4" aspen plywood, which is the proper thickness for my 1/3 scale model.

After cutting everything out with the jigsaw and scraping and sanding the paper off, I was able to glue and nail it together.  The final result, I will admit, is rough if not illustrative.

Parents think I'm crazy, and the Doctor says I've cracked, but they don't understand me, Lord, 'cause I' just wanna get back....
"I wanna get back - back to the rocking horse..."
The final full size build should sit just a bit higher that chair height to allow adults to comfortably sit upon it.  We'll add old, not good for actual use saddles, and mop string for manes and tails. The next step, I hope, money permitting, is to build a large enough CNC mill to handle 4 x 8 sheets of plywood.  I've never built a CNC mill, but I think I can get it done for around $1200 based on conversations with peers who have made their own.  I also have it on good authority that Dave Gatton is "the man" when it comes to DIY CNC mills.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Toddler Safety Rail

Our intrepid 15 month old has become an expert climber.  She climbs stairs, chairs and all manner of barricades, including her crib sides.  Since it's a long ways to the floor, we decided to just take the side off of the crib. But, she fell out of bed twice the first night, onto waiting cushions, but was not happy about it.

Looking over the bed rails available locally, and reading some reviews online, we felt like we had no good option in that direction.  I knew, however that I could make one myself.

Using some donated MDF and a couple of  inside angle 4" metal strong ties from Lowes, I quickly fabricated something that matched commercial dimensions, but far exceeded the apparent weight and strength of them.  The finishing touch was two coats of sage green paint to match the walls in our room.  This should hold up for a good long while, maybe as she grows into a bigger bed as well.

Rounded Edges and Corners for Safety

Assembly was a little tricky.  I had to get the two piece, which I had beveled 45 degrees on the table saw, to line up together while I drilled pilot holes for screws and then drove the screws for the angle braces.  Using my table saw top as a work bench, I set up the bottom piece and then used long bar clamps to draw the pieces together.  The trick here was I had attached the angle brackets to the bottom piece already, so the side rail, when compressing its bottom beveled edge against that of the bottom section rode up slightly until meeting the angle brackets.  By tightening things up a bit, I had the side rail secure enough to drill and screw to the brackets.

36" x 26" base, 15" high rail, 1-3/4 " radii on corners
Just to make myself happy, I took the corner of one piece of waste from beveling and glued it into the inside corner between and aside each bracket.  It's comical, really, the brackets providing so much more strength, but it some how seems stronger to me this way.