Portable Soldering Station

Following up on getting the new hobby desk and organizing the room, I needed something for all of my soldering tools. A lot of the stuff on these shelves needed to be easy to pull out and use at the desk.

The portable soldering station Adam Savage built gave me some inspiration. I could make something to live in the closet when not in use and being portable would allow me to take it to the basement if needed. I measured how much floor space I had available in the closet and hauled everything down to my woodshop.

I cut up some shitty scrap plywood and started playing around with ideas.

Being able to see things in space really helped with my design process. When I had something I was happy with, I made a sketch with rough details.

When I saw it on paper, it reminded me of a wood toolbox with a handle. Makes sense, I guess, since that’s essentially what I was building. I still have a large pile of old oak flooring, so I spent about two hours milling a few pieces down to 3/8″ thick boards. Then I glued some pieces to make panels for the sides, bottom, and shelf.

I picked up a piece of 1″ (it’s actually 1 – 1/8″) oak dowel from Menards for a handle. After letting the glue dry on those panels for a few hours I cut them to size, designed the side profile, and made other pieces. I realized I need to glue up two other panels for the small shelf bottom and a cross piece on the back. I think I only had to recut one small piece that was originally the wrong size. Eventually I had all of the parts.

I sanded all of the faces with 80 grit and then used glue and a pin nailer for assembly. Since nothing here need to support a lot of weight, I went with simple butt joints.

After a quick fit check for all of the tools and supplies, it was obvious I need some way to organize the power cords, so I made a cord wrap from some scraps.

With a palm router I softened the edges everywhere and did a final sanding. Originally I was planning to use a dark stain to match the hobby room’s trim, but after seeing this put together I really liked the lighter colors and the wood grain. I skipped the stain and applied three coats of Minwax Water Based Polycrylic, sanding with a piece of paper bag after each.

I’m really happy with the decision not to use stain. The pieces I selected for the side panels have some great coloring and grain.

All of the tools and materials are easy to access and the station fits well in the closet.

Unclog a Bissell Carpet Cleaner

If you have a Bissell carpet cleaner that won’t spray, the heater core might be clogged up. Start removing screws and parts (you can probably find a video on YouTube for your model) until you find a rectangular metal part with wires and hoses connected. For this model it turned out I didn’t need to take the handle pieces apart.

After you remove the wires and hoses, you should be able to pull the heater core out.

Then you can pop off the cover and clean out the inside. I should have taken a picture of the junk that was caked in the channels, but this is what it looked like after I did a quick cleaning.

Then comes the fun part of trying to fit everything back together. ūüôā I had to do it twice because I didn’t route some of the hoses properly. The unit works again though!

Making Things in 2020

I got burnt out in 2019, but 2020 relit my fire for making stuff.

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Once I found the spark, the rest of the year felt balanced, in terms of not doing too much and varying the types of projects. My favorites were the new home office, the Gympac, and the picnic table / benches. 2021 is off to a great start with several posts already published and others being planned. The hobby room updates will allow me to get back to electronics projects.

A New Hobby Desk and Organization

When I was doing the wiring for the cabinet LED lighting, I remembered how much I hated the tall desk for that kind of work.

I woke up the next day and decided to get a new desk. I wanted something similar and I basically found the little brother; it’s almost identical. The old one was 4″ deeper, which I think I’ll miss.

When I was desk shopping I saw these storage bins and they sparked ideas for decluttering the area.

I had to make a modification to the desk, because the adjustable shelf couldn’t be placed in the middle. After measuring everything about five times, I made two risers to get the shelf where I wanted. You wouldn’t even notice if I didn’t point them out.

I was in the zone and decided to tackle another problem. A couple of years ago I made an overhead camera rig out of a swing arm desk lamp. The mount it came with was someone else’s mod and one wrong bump knocked it off the desk. This is what it looked like.

I made a mount to match the profile of my new desk, which hooks up and over the metal bar. This isn’t going anywhere!

Back to those storage bins. My goal was to get the hobby tools out of sight, while making them easy to access. On the bookshelf they were always piled up and I had to get off the chair to reach them. All I needed was some cardboard (from the desk’s box) and hot glue.

The second bin didn’t get dividers because everything in there is pretty big and doesn’t need dedicated space. I can always update it later if necessary. In fact I probably don’t even need the cardboard liner, but it was already made. The small bookshelf, where my tools had been, moved inside the closet. I love the cleaner look the room has.

Learning From a Retractable Extension Cord Reel Restoration

My brother gave me this reel, which I think he got from an estate sale.

My garage only has an outlet on the wall by the house and one in the ceiling by the garage door opener, so this will come in handy as a quick way to get power anywhere in the garage. There really wasn’t much to restoring it. I cleaned it up, gave it some paint, and put a new grounding cord outlet on it.

PIC

I love bringing things like this back to life because we’ve become too quick to discard things. Taking stuff apart also allows me to learn. I’ve often wondered how the wiring worked in a retractable mechanism like this. It’s pretty cool. I bet if I took apart my small wet/dry floor vacuum, the retractable cord in there would be built similar to this. Now I’m curious how retractable air hoses work!

There’s always a risk of breaking something when taking it apart though and that’s exactly what happened to me. The spring snapped when I would it up in the wrong direction. I was able to fix it by cutting the spring, drilling a new hole, and using a nail as a rivet. Hopefully it lasts.

I put everything back together and hung it in the garage.

IKEA BILLY / OXBERG with Custom LED Lighting

I made a recent roadtrip to IKEA for two BILLY bookcases with OXBERG doors.

Perfect fit in the Tesla Model 3

These are for my hobby room to help organize as well as display things I make or collect. That’s why I went with the half panel half glass doors.

I added some LED tape strip lights I picked up at Home Depot. Two boxes of 16′ lengths left me with several feet left over. There was a fair amount of time spent cutting, stripping, splitting off from the power source, etc. It was good to get back in to some electronics work though.

A Lesson in Wood Movement

A few months ago I made a backer for my desk. Turns out I made a huge mistake by gluing pieces of hardboard (not shown in any of the original build pictures) to the back of the oak, hoping to add strength. When the weather started to turn here in Michigan and humidity levels changed, the different materials shrunk at different rates and it caused major problems.

When I removed the screws a lot of stress was released. Yikes!

When set on my work table you can really see how much bend there was.

I’d spent so much time building these desk backers. I felt sick and hoped I could save it all. It was very easy to separate the hardboard from the oak on half; not so easy with the other half. Below is the first half I worked on.

I used a chisel to scrape off the bulk of what you see in the above picture and sanded the rest. After that, I purposely broke the worst joint separations so I could sand the edges and glue them back together stronger. The hardboard didn’t come off the second half in large pieces and I actually got out the electric hand plane to help with the job. What you see below is this second half after cleaning it up and breaking the weakened joints.

Here’s a comparison between the first half (near me) after I fixed it and the second half with the hardboard still attached.

Far from perfect, but good enough. I’m so glad I was able to save the pieces. It was probably 4-5 hours of work though.

Since the oak panels are screwed to the desk, without anything allowing for movement, I could still run in to issues with expansion and contraction. Hopefully it’ll be minor and not cause any other epic failures though.