Making Things in 2019

I posted recaps of my making for 2017 and 2018. I thought I might be able to hit 100 making posts in 2019, but I fell well short of that. November and December of 2018 kind of burned me out. I do a bit in 2019 though…

January

February

March

 

May

June

July

Only 21 posts for the year!

Franken-treadmill

Last August I picked up a free treadmill and didn’t use it once because it had a major issue. When I’d get on it and crank up the speed, either the belt was slipping or the motor couldn’t handle the load. I never got around to troubleshooting the problem. A couple of weeks ago I saw another free treadmill which was able to fold up. That was another problem with the first treadmill; it took up way too much space in the garage.

So I picked up this second treadmill and gave it a quick test when I got it home. It worked just fine at speed, but the front end wanted to tip back. I found the manual online and noticed it was missing the support leg extensions and wheels. I grabbed a couple of 1.5″ posts from my scrap wood, hammered them in, and they fit perfectly.

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No more tipping over!

Last weekend I disassembled the first treadmill to salvage a bunch of parts, like the motor and speed controller. The support wheels were part of a framed piece, which I thought I could fit on to the treadmill I was keeping, so I saved them too.

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Today I cut a couple of spacer blocks, chopped the leg posts, drilled some holes, and voila! The bolts I used were also saved from the other treadmill. I love when a plan works out and especially when it involves upcycling parts.

I was a little worried the posts wouldn’t be able to handle the weight of the treadmill when propped up to wheel around, but it works great. I probably won’t move the treadmill around the garage often, but it’s nice that it’ll be easy to do with the wheels instead of having to pick it up or shuffle it across the floor.

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How many times will I use this treadmill in the next year though?

Funk

I haven’t been making anything in my free time lately. No woodworking. No electronics projects. I think I got burnt out from doing so many projects over November, December, and January. I have several projects started in the basement workshop and my main workbench is piled with salvaged parts from various things. My hobby desk has several electronics kits I haven’t opened. So it’s not like I don’t have projects I could be working on. I probably need to find the motivation or inspiration for that one project that gets me going again. It’ll come.

When I’m not making things, it’s a lot harder to come up with content for blog posts and continue my daily posting streak. This post marks day 938. If you’ve been following along you probably noticed a lot more pictures and random shit over the last few months. It seems like I’m getting to 6, 7, or 8 pm more often before I finally post something. I’ve thought about ending the streak, but I’m so close to 1,000 days!

Making Things in 2017

It was late in 2016 when I started getting into electronics and this summer I started buying more tools and converted most of my basement into a workshop. Here’s a recap of my 2017 posts related to making or fixing things.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Wow, I did a lot of experimenting, failing, learning, and accomplishing in my “free time” last year! 2018 should be even better when I combine the new skills I’m acquiring with my list of project ideas.

Making a Bluetooth Speaker

It’s been too long since I posted about designing a speaker in SketchUp, but other projects moved up on my priority list between then and now. Well, over the last few days I finally made the speaker. In the end, the delay was worth it, because several of the steps were a lot easier with tools I’ve acquired over the last few months.

Other than the design, the first step was to get a board. I ordered the INSMA TDA7492P Chip 25W+25W Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Audio Receiver Digital Amplifier Board on Amazon after watching 2 otherbuilds with the same board. To make sure it was going to work, I hooked up my speakers for a quick test. I salvaged the speakers out of on old set of computer speakers I had in college.

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I ordered a couple of different button styles from AliExpress, so I tried both types out, ultimately deciding to use the larger buttons which also had a blue LED ring. The smaller buttons were nice but not right for this project.

I did those tests around the same time I was designing the speaker. Several months passed before I touched any of the components again. Since I wanted to use my own buttons, switch, and LEDs I needed to figure out the best ways to connect in to various points on the board. This involved a lot of poking and prodding with a multimeter. I figured everything out and did all of the soldering and wiring prep work to help with assembly once the box was built.

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I had taken some general measurements when iterating on the design, but I thought it would be a good idea to create a cardboard model before cutting any wood. This mockup of the walls was an inch too short, but it let me get an idea of what kind of space would be on the inside. Knowing that the 1/2″ plywood would use up a lot more area, I increased several dimensions and changed the angles on the 3 front pieces.

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After cutting the 3 front pieces and two sides, I measured and marked all of the spots where I needed to drill holes.

Then I spent a lot of time with the drill press. There was a lot of measuring and calculating because pretty much everything going on the front face needed some kind of recess.

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It was looking pretty good!

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Since I hadn’t updated my SketchUp plans for the changes, it was tricky getting the correct sizes for the top, bottom, and back pieces. I ended up screwing some parts together in a step-by-step process and then making small cuts on the new pieces to inch up on the fits. At the end I had to do a bunch of sanding on the front face, which was the last piece I screwed together. It was really cool seeing the design come to life.

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Time for some finishing work. I sanded edges and cleaned off all of the dust before I did a quick coat of spray paint. I wanted to try a neat technique I’d seen, so I did a bunch of sanding to rough up the paint. Then I coated everything with 2 coats of stain/poly, while doing a light sanding in between. After the first coat of stain, I unscrewed everything to apply the final coat because I wanted to make sure nothing was stuck together on the joints.

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After letting everything dry it was time to work on the guts. I used the time-lapse recording option on my YI 4K Action Camera for the first time, which worked well, so here it is with voice-over to explain what I’m doing during the assembly process.

I wanted to give it a coat of Minwax paste finishing wax when I was done, but with all of the buttons and speakers in the way it would have been too hard to work around them. Should have done it before. I’m pretty thrilled with how the paint and stain combo turned out.

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The dimensions ending up being 5″ tall, 10″ wide, 4.5″ deep at the sides, and 5.75″ deep in the middle. It weighs just under 4 pounds with most of that coming from the 2 speakers. It’s hard to get a sense for the size in the cropped images above, so for scale here is a comparison with a beer bottle.

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I’ve been using an old Jawbone Jambox for music in my garage gym. This is so much more convenient because it plugs in and has a permanent spot. No more worrying about a dead battery or trying to find the Jambox when it’s time for a workout.

Whenever I was using the Airdyne or Ski Erg, it was hard to hear the Jambox. Judging by the test below, I should be able to crank the tunes now. I played 30 seconds of “Welcome to the Jungle” with both speakers, starting at the 1:00 mark, and increasing the volume every 5 seconds.

Quarterly Maker Box #MKR08 by Adam Savage Part 1

Several weeks ago, when I posted about Brain Candy Live!, I mentioned being a fan of Adam Savage’s work. Well, I saw him post a YouTube video announcing that he’d be curating a Maker Box for Quarterly and jumped on it. Apparently I’m not getting enough from my AdaBox and HackerBoxes subscriptions, which I already have a hard time keeping up with. I do love getting surprise packages and I understand some of it is paying for an experience.

It was unclear how many boxes Adam would be involved in, but it definitely sounded like multiple. Turns out there will be two, announced in a teaser of the first box. At $99 per box, it’s a pricey subscription compared to others. What they don’t tell you is that it’s another $8 for shipping, so really $107. Bit of a surprise when my other subscriptions include shipping in the quoted price.

The first of Adam’s boxes, which is Quarterly’s Maker Box #MKR08, arrived this week. Of course I did an unboxing video. Doing these has become good practice at describing things on-the-fly.

Neat box. Very unique. I’d been thinking about buying several items in the box, so it’s nice when a surprise comes through like this. Each Quarterly Maker Box must come with a puzzle that leads you to a web page about the contents. So naturally I worked on the puzzle before diving into the projects. To go along with one of the themes of the box, the puzzle involved doing a scaled drawing. It was actually a lot of fun and I think it turned out pretty well!

I’ll publish some other posts as I work on the projects.

Designing a Speaker in SketchUp

I’m going to build a bluetooth speaker for my garage gym using an old set of computer speakers. I thought it would be good to plan it out in a 3D model first, so I learned how to use SketchUp by following their great video tutorials. As I’ve learned new tricks and thought of different ideas there have been several design iterations.

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Version 1

This first attempt was a very rough idea using paper-thin walls or basically one solid piece, depending on how you want to think of it.

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Version 2

I was thinking I could build the box out of 1/4″ material. I set the thickness of the walls, properly created each side of the box as a separate piece, and separated the lids.

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Version 3

I realized using 1/4″ material wouldn’t give me much room to drive screws into, so I increased to 1/2″. I added speaker mounting holes and the lids were given holes where screws will hold the pieces together. The holes in the middle front section will be where LEDs and buttons go. The square hole in the back wall (which will probably be changed to a small circle and maybe moved to a side) is for the power cord.

 

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Version 4

I realized if the lids were sitting on the top and bottom of the sides, you’d be able to see the ugly edges if I use something like plywood. So I increased the height of the walls and shrunk the lids to fit inside. There is a row of screw holes all the way around the top and bottom of the side walls, which will attach everything to the lids. I forgot about the on/off switch, so I added another hole on the front.

This is the first time I’ve attempted any 3D modeling and it’s been a lot of fun. Before I start working with wood, I’ll probably create a cardboard model to make sure the components fit inside. The dimensions are roughly 4.25″ deep, 9.5″ wide, and 5″ high.

All of the SketchUp files are in a bluetooth-speaker-design repo on GitHub if you want to use any of them.

Head over to Making a Bluetooth Speaker to see how the build turned out.

How To Cut A Picture Frame To Size Easily

Under the box lid of a Sears Craftsman 45° miter cut-n-clamp set, which was produced in the 1960s.

X + 2Y - 0.5 = L

  1. Measure the width of the picture. (X in inches)
  2. Measure the width of the molding. (Y in inches)
  3. 3 Add twice the molding width (2Y) to the picture size (X) then subtract 0.5.
  4. This will give you the length to cut your molding. (L in inches)

Then you can do the same thing for the opposite dimension if your picture isn’t a square.

5v Relay Module – Part 3

I had no plans for a part 3, but in part 2 of this series, I mentioned how I messed up the wiring several times when I was assembling the module. Instead of fixing it at the time, I started from scratch since I had extra parts. Well, I made some time to disassemble the non-working module and build a new one. I quickly set up a prototype on a breadboard to make sure I didn’t make the same mistakes and then I soldered it all together on a permanent board. Was smooth sailing, even with squeezing everything in as much as I could.

Now I have a two different spare relay modules, depending on power requirements, when I need one for a project.