Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Basement shop lighting

To date our basement has been lit with these incumbent clunkers, two in the shop and two in the hallway:
They averaged about two working bulbs per fixture and were generally in the way (hanging down 5" from the low ceiling floor joists), noisy, and ugly. And, man, are they heavy, it turns out. In the shop, they were in the middle of the space and cast little light to the sides and corners where I work.

In search of adequate task light in the low ceiling environment, I first tried a recessed can light with LED bulb, but it seemed like it was shining right in my eyes and cast a narrow cone such that many fixtures would be needed to achieve less total light than the old tubes.

The next iteration was to use strip lights recessed into the floor joists, hung on nailed up sticks. I wasn't sure how wide a beam would be cast and whether the bare LED bulbs would also shine right in my eyes, but it turned out great on all factors.

Here's the new shop setup with four 4' 2-lamp T12 fixtures, ballasts removed, and 18W 5000K dual-end powered T8 LED tubes with frosted covers installed. The walls and workstations are lit up like never before. The bright white light is just right. The bulbs light up in about half a second and run silently and flicker-free.

Here's a close-up of my stick mount hack job. That was time-consuming, but they came out level and at the right height. Half the bulb diameter protrudes below the joists.

The existing motion sensor switch was kept for the outer hallway/storage area and the shop lights split off to a new switch that stays on when the curtain is closed for dust control. If you look closely you can see a scar on the motion sensor switch where I nicked it with the Dremel while whacking off the corners to fit in the raised box cover. Oops. I'll have to live with that one.

The hallway/storage area got new low profile integrated LEDs. They cost a bit more than the other combos and do not have replaceable bulbs, but I didn't have room to recess fixtures in that area due to ductwork.

The project is a resounding success. The lighting is exactly what I hoped for, the new switch is a big win, we get more light with half the power consumption to boot. I heartily recommend this setup for low ceiling basement task environments.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Wood A-frame swing set

Emeline has long adored swinging, but we held off on doing anything about it at home out of fear of mosquitos and total immersion. This year ambition mounted and we went for it.

Of course DIY is the only way when one is dissatisfied with the configuration or robustness of commercial kits. Inspired by plans at The Design Confidential, among others, I drew plans in SketchUp, fretting over the height, angle, hardware, bracing, etc., until I was happy with it and ready to dive in. A weekend sans kids was enough to build it, then another weekend for the corner braces and a lunch break for anchors saw the job through.

We seem to have struck a good balance where they do want to swing every day, but not all day.

  • 4x4x10 treated posts, 18 degree angle front and back
  • 4x6x10 treated beam
  • Final height (ground to bottom of beam): 8' - 8'4"
  • 5/4 x 6 decking A-frame braces
  • 2x6 (treated) corner braces: 45 degree miter one end; 45 miter, about 33 bevel other end. Good luck with that. Glued with Gorilla Glue. I still need to trim the foam-out and probably should have skipped the glue altogether.
  • 1/2" galvanized carriage bolts, 8" and 10" through the beam, 4-1/2" through braces (McMaster has that length, and they end up perfectly flush)
  • 3/8" x 6" galvanized lag bolts and #10 x 2-1/2" galvanized deck screws through corner braces
  • heavy duty swing hangers and swing seats (of the big box stores, only Home Depot carries these)
  • 1/2" x 4' rebar anchors

Tinkerbell puts pixie dust on Emeline (she has another pixie dust bag that is yellow that she normally keeps closed):
Sylvie's drawing of Tinkerbell's friends, including angry-faced Vidia (not normally blue):

Safe-t-planer dust hood

This project has been done for a while, but only recently was I able to test it enough to determine that it does in fact work well enough to justify the setup: a dust hood for the Wagner Safe-t-planer.

Inspired by Jason Rodgers at MIMF, I went down to the Chinese restaurant and got a large order of egg drop soup. After the soup was safely and warmly in my stomach, the container was washed and cut, sewed to a strip of old computer mouse pad, and mounted to the quill of the drill press.

Here it is in place. Jason's setup is much simpler because he had a nice hunk of iron to attach to. I had to make a custom collar for the end of the quill, slide the hood around that, and then secure the hood with two smaller collar sections screwed to the inner collar. It's a bit of a pain dealing with the collar, but with practice I'm getting faster setting it up.

Here's a stack of eight boards, approximately 2x6x27, just off the planer.


One small pile on the floor from taking about 1/8" off each face of each board in the pictured stack. Some three gallons in the 6.5A 1-1/4" Bucket Max (half the bucket load came from the previous round planing similar boards). Without the hood, each pass of the planer would spray dust in every direction, coat my left arm and every nook and cranny within three feet, and leave chips on the table that like to sneak under the work and lift it. This is a very satisfying improvement. Maybe if I used the 12 gallon shop vac, the basement would even clean itself while I work.

Bonus: Adding this 1.5 ton scissor jack under the drill press table greatly increased the stability of my whole planing operation. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A small restoration project

This is my second woodworking project, some kind of shelf thing from 8th grade industrial arts. It's industrial, I'll give it that. Lots of heavy oak and wood putty.

Today's project was knocking the front trim off so I could use the lower shelf without scraping my hands on the overhang every time. Now it's perfect for storing my stack of sandpaper, which frees up a workbench drawer.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Belt sander tool rest

I made this tool rest for the 4" belt sander. First a prototype with plywood and plastic, then the official release from 1/4" mild steel. Both versions have a 90 degree arm bent from 1/4" aluminum. The second shot shows both arms together for comparison.

The intended application is grinding plane blades. Using a bevel gauge, set the tool rest to an exact angle to the belt and clamp the adjustable handle. Next pinch a plane blade on the tool rest with your opposable thumbs and apply light pressure up into the revolving belt. Try to keep it straight into the belt. The beauty of this method is there is no need to measure or mark any guide lines. In seconds you will have a rounded, cambered bevel roughly at the angle you set, ready for honing.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A new hat

It was time to mount a new head to try to get the tension hoop to ride a little lower.

Here's a Harbor Freight ring roller and new flesh hoop rolled:
New head mounted:
Trimmed and stained with TransTint Brown Mahogany sprayed in a very thin cut of shellac:
Banjo Hangout says nylon strung banjos sound better with a different bridge design and lighter weight, so I made a few:
It suits Sylvie:

Monday, December 8, 2014

5th String Spike And Nylgut Install

I've always been curious how my banjo might sound with nylon strings. The main thing holding me back was the need to install a spike at the fifth string in order to bring it up to tension. I work around this with steel strings by using a smaller gauge string, but I wasn't sure that would work for nylon.

Having recently acquired some tiny railroad spikes and received a new push drill, I took a crack at it and completed the job. I shortened and polished the spike, drilled a hole for a snug fit, dipped the spike in glue, pressed it in with pliers, and then tapped down to a height just above the string thickness. It took two tries to get everything lined up and pointing the right way at the right height, but it works just fine. I'd say I'm lucky, considering I didn't really practice on scrap. I didn't drill all the way through the neck or anything!

It sounds like an old fashioned thumper in person but more mellow in the recording. I will try a different bridge and give my fingers some time to adjust.

I like how easy the strings are to work with in installation, which is good because so far I've broken three (at the tailpiece knot).

Of course Emeline noticed the red strings right away. "Mommy, Daddy's banjo has red strings. Daddy, why are you always building banjos?" Well, it's just the one, Sweetie... I'm a little slow.

Nylgut reds demo audio (download):