Building The Child in LEGO

I’ve had the itch to do a LEGO set for awhile and had been eyeing up this set for months at Costco. I finally jumped on it.

I can’t remember the last time I put together a set of LEGO, but it’s probably been over 20 years. Things have come a long way.

Custom Workbench

I’ve needed a workbench in my new shop since day 1. I finally got tired of working on the floor and built one. I created a little video to show the various ways I’ll use the table.

Let me walk you through the build. First I measured a bunch of stuff, especially the tools I wanted to be able to store under the table.

Then I did a quick framing mock-up to visualize the size.

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The size felt pretty good so I spent some time in SketchUp. The model is free at my new Misc Plans repo on GitHub. Not everything in the model and the screenshot below are exact to the finished workbench, but they’re a good starting point if you want to build something similar.

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At Home Depot I had them cut a sheet of 3/4″ plywood into 3 equal pieces. At home I trimmed them to size for the walls. Then I started cutting 2x4s (all from the walls I took down) for the rest of the framing. I set up an extended fence and a stop block on my miter saw.

That really made quick work so I didn’t have to measure each piece.

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Then I countersunk and drilled holes, glued, and screwed the pieces of 2×4 to create a frame on each wall.

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After assembling the 3 walls I started to line everything up and attached the rails. I was thrilled when the power went out as I was finishing up. Some battery lights allowed me to finish the remaining screws.

I couldn’t believe how level it turned out, considering my basement floor is not very flat.

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Here’s the frame after the power came back on.

I made another trip to Home Depot. I had them cut 2 sheets of plywood to my exact size of 3×5 feet. Then I used a lot of glue (2-3 times what is pictured below) to laminate the two sheets together. I wanted a solid surface for the top of the workbench.

I hauled a bunch of weights down from the garage and clamped all around the edges. I think I counted 35 clamps being used! There weren’t many left on my clamp racks.

With so much glue, I gave it almost a full day to dry. Then I used my router with a flush trim bit along the edges to even up the 2 pieces, followed by a round over bit to get rid of the sharp edges

It was time to attach the top to the frame. I measured out the placement on one end and when I went to check the other side it was way off. I hadn’t been testing squareness enough or not in the right places when I assembled the frame. This is where experience and learning the order of operations is important. I measured the diagonals and there was about an inch difference between the two. Shit!

I pushed and pulled on corners and racked my brain trying to think of a good way to square it up. I decided to take the frame apart and go with a different approach. I’m glad I didn’t glue those rails to the walls!

I gave the entire table top a coat of paste finishing wax before moving on. Then I laid out some scrap plywood on the floor, set the top down, and used shims to get it as level as I could. I placed the wall on the end and used pocket holes to screw it in. From there I measured out where the two rails should go and I pocket holed them to the top as well. Then in went the other two walls. I made sure to test squareness of the walls to the top. I didn’t need to test horizontal square because I knew the top was a good rectangle. This was a much smoother way to assemble the frame.

Before flipping it over, I attached 6 castors (3 locking along one side) to the frame. I cut a bunch of scraps to make shelves and attached a metal tool holder on each side.

I had already cut and laminated the pieces for the vise somewhere earlier in this whole process. I also used flush trim and round over bits to route the edges of the vise jaws. In the drill press I used a Forstner bit to make the holes in the vise jaws for the pipes. Then I screwed the single vise jaw to the table and used its holes as guides to continue the holes through the side wall of the table. Unfortunately the Forstner bit wasn’t long enough to go all the way through. I found this massive drill bit in a box of bits my Dad had given me with the drill press. It wasn’t quite wide enough so I still had to file the edges of both holes.

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Here is a close-up of one piece of the pipe clamp under the table. I used the drill press to put some holes in the clamp and then locked it in place with some screws.

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Hung up a couple of router accessories on the wall.

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Voila!

Isn’t she pretty? I don’t know how I lived without this thing. I’ve already used it so much. If you’re putting together a shop I recommend starting with a proper workbench before anything else.

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I bought this 36″ paper roll and holder so I could cover the table when doing a glue up or a quick paint or stain job.

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It would stick out too much on the sides though. I also didn’t like the mounting method and how much space it would take up under my 12″ overhang. So I found a place on the floor under my tool bench (that you see in the picture) to put it.

DIY Cyclone Dust Separator

With the plans to turn an area of my basement into a workshop, I wanted to have some type of dust collection system in place. Here’s the video of what I built and then I’ll go into some details.

Originally I had some grand ideas, but I did more searching and came across a neat mobile dust station. It seemed like a good solution for me since the area I’ll be using isn’t very large and there is a pole in the middle of the room. I’ll probably have most of the larger tools and work table on wheels, so I scrapped the initial idea to have dust collection feeds going to several different places around the room.

I ordered a knock-off cyclone unit for about $25 on Amazon. I noticed it was going to take several weeks to be back in stock, so I wondered if I could make my own. Sure enough there are countless examples of people building their own. I cancelled the order and had my next project. Most of the builds shared online are based on the Thien Baffle Cyclone Separator, which is one guy’s improved version of the Cyclone. I found a video where someone used polycarbonate to create a clear cylinder, which I thought looked really cool when dust was whipping around inside. I ended up using many of his methods to construct my own cylinder.

Here are some sketches I did before and through the build process.

 

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The final build ended up pretty close to this sketch.

 

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Dimensions of my baffle and the other parts at the bottom of the cylinder.

 

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Pieces to support the seam of the cylinder and house the infeed hose.

Cutting the outer hole, an inside circle, and forming the cylinder were easily the most difficult parts of this build. I used straps to help keep the polycarbonate shape, because it wants to go right back to being a flat sheet. If I were to do this again, I’d use a wider sheet than 24″ or find some thinner than the 0.093″ I got from Home Depot in the hopes it would be easier to form the cylinder.

Once formed and screwed in, the 2 screws at each end of the sheet pulled right out of the top circle after a few minutes. It needed some support down the seam, so I learned how to cut a cove with a table saw that would allow a piece of wood to fit up nicely against the curve of the cylinder. Don’t get me started on how many circles and curves there were during this build.

I didn’t take any pictures during the frame/stand build but there isn’t anything exciting to say there. To get the rainbow effect on the LEDs I’m using a cheap Arduino Nano clone with some pretty simple code, which is available at my rgb-led-rainbow repo on GitHub.

I’m happy with how the project turned out, but it took much longer than I expected. I probably should have started out my shop with something easier to get more comfortable with woodworking. I did learn a lot and used so many different tools throughout the process.

If you have any specific questions about my build, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer. I decided not to do a detailed description or video because there are a lot of examples out there, including the two YouTube videos and the Thien baffle design I linked to above. I took most of my ideas from others and gave things my own twist.

RBT 1911 Pull Back

I’ve always wanted a rubberband gun, so when I saw awesome kits by Rubberband Tech at Maker Faire Detroit I had to get one. I could have a sweet gun and build it myself. The 1911 immediately got my attention because of the slide action and the functional clip. The hardwood version (I picked zebrawood) of the kit was an extra $10 to make it $30 and a big bag of extra rubberbands was $5.

The build, spread over several days, took about 7 or 8 hours, which was much longer and harder than expected. A lot of difficulties were from the instructions being short on details. They tell you to sand several pieces but don’t get into how much sanding is required (A lot and then a lot more!), especially to get the trigger mechanism working properly.

I tried to video the entire process, ending up with over 140 GB of footage! On a first pass through iMovie at 20x fast forward the video was way too long, so I exported and ran it back through at 8x more. At the end of the video is a demo at normal speed showing the gun in action.

The stain I used on the zebrawood pieces was called Espresso and the one I used on the rest of the gun was an English Chestnut. I finished it off with 2 coats of a finishing wax. As mentioned in the video, I’m not happy with the end result of the staining. I wish I had done a second coat of the espresso stain on the hardwood pieces, or gotten a little lighter stain for the rest of the gun, or even both.

Now I need to make some targets. I have some ideas involving electronics for timing and scoring.

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