Saturday, December 30, 2017

Rocking Chair Cushions

I made these denim cushions for two rocking chairs that my dad made. The ones with ribbons get tied to the backs of the chairs, the other ones just rest on the seat. Being round, it took a bit of caution to get the top and bottom plates to align well. I divided them all into eight equal segments and kept the segments synchronized as I sewed. The ribbons also had to line up. As I do not have an overlock machine, I used grosgrain as bias tape around the edges on the inside. The cushions are just stuffed with a few layers of polyester batting.

Due to uh, manufacturing complexities, the maker tags have not been put on yet. I think I'll go put them on now-

The colors may look a little odd; the camera increases the contrast and makes red into violet. I edited them a little and they still look funny.

Took a picture of myself sewing the tags on. If you are wondering who writes this blog, this photo captures me pretty well. I make 98% of the things I do in this 4m x 4m space.

After these I'm making a full set of cushions and window blinds for a Catalina 27' sailboat! You can see the foam in the back left of the photo above.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Bikes and Ebikes

I put together this electric bike about a year ago. At the time, I lived on a mountain about seven miles from downtown. I didn't have the energy to bike into town often, and I seldom rode in the car: I had no driver's license, and I am somewhat sensitive to the dirty/dusty interior of cars. As a result, I usually stayed within a mile or two from home and was somewhat isolated from the usual 21st century bustle.

So I decided to get my driver's license, with the intention of riding around a 49cc scooter. The scooter would make it much easier to get in and out of town. I took the written exam to get my permit. I started to practice driving a car for essentially the first time in my life, and I didn't enjoy it at all. I understand this is a common experience for people who don't start driving until they are older.

To boot, a car was not my vehicle of teenage liberation as it is for many people. I found freedom when I was about 12 on my sister's ruby-colored 650b road bike, which was a spritely little sled:

There were many other reasons the idea of getting around on a scooter became sour, but eventually:

I saw the guts of this bike on craigslist for $100. My dad bought the Bionx conversion a few years prior for his Catrike, which was sitting unused in the garage. The rack, lights, and panniers were just sitting around too.

While nowhere near as powerful as a scooter, it was powerful enough to enable me to get into town a couple times a week. I basically haven't touched the car or the scooter since that bike was built. I could carry anything I wanted on it, my extremities didn't get numb in the cold, I wasn't legally required to wear a massive helmet which fogged up constantly, and best of all I could easily afford it!

A year passed, and I moved to the downtown area with my girlfriend. She, who also doesn't have a car, needed to get to school and work every day. My transportation needs were greatly reduced at this point since I now basically lived at my destinations. I let her borrow the electric bike a few times, but after about two weeks it was gone all the time. I had just built a bike for myself, too:

I didn't expect to be riding it a whole lot, but I did. The generator lighting has been really nice. It's a fast bike though, and I began to miss the electric bike for carrying my tools and grocery getting.

So I built myself a new one! It was somewhat complex. I had to machine an axle torque arm for the front, and many parts required modification. Here it is carrying my tools to fix some kitchen equipment:

It has an Ezee geared front hub, Ezee controller, Hailong DT battery, and f/r lights powered by the main battery. I got all the ebike parts from Grin Tech (, who have incredible customer service.

The front hub motor and rear-mounted battery make it much more balanced than the bionx bike. It also actually fits my spindly self. Below you can see the wooden adapter I made to mount the battery atop the rear rack (see below).

I really like the handlebars. The sweeping bars and fork gave it a flying-ace aesthetic to me, so I put a snoopy sticker on the battery.

Here is the rack adapter made of hard maple. I made a similar part not long ago using a table saw and drill press in a proper shop, whereas this part I made quietly in my apartment mostly using hand tools. I used the taig lathe to mill the slots. I think the method was symbolic of the bike: practical, steady, quiet, and affordable.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

File Handle Experiment

From the video description:

Paul Sellers did a video about making a chisel handle here: 

The way he drills the hole in the handle after he turns seems sort of wishy-washy. He is also relying on the shape of a cordless drill for the axial alignment of a hole. It's definitely accurate enough, but the method has no elegance! 

I bodged together a lathe with a schroeder breast drill, an awl, and some clamps to try a different method. I first drilled a hole in an octagonal chunk of wood, then pressed a slightly larger drill bit into the hole to act as a mandrel. I held onto the bit with the drill chuck (could just as well use any drill), and spun it to visually find the center of the non-supported end. I stuck the awl in the end to act as a center, and turned it using a chisel. 

The handle is made of recycled wood and the ferrule is made of a scrap of bicycle steerer tube. I cut the ferrule with a hacksaw blade while mounted on the lathe, to show you do not need a 800kg lathe to turn (tough) steel. A hacksaw blade can also be used for turning like this: 

I think a faceted wooden handle is nicer to hold and easier to make by hand, but this works for parts which need to be more accurate.

Speaking of faceted handles:

This is a rod I hang my clothes on to dry. The original rod was hickory, which started growing mold(?), so I began searching for a replacement. I found this stick of plastic decking in a pile of construction waste and it followed me home. I felt like a knight with a lance, carrying the 6' stick on my bike. The original was clamped to the closet doors, which was ugly and kept two clamps occupied. I whittled these pins out of hickory to keep the rod in place. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Topeak Pannier Adapter

Topeak makes a pannier/rack-top bag with a dovetail mount. It fits their racks, but not the Tubus rack my dad had on his Catrike. I made him this wooden adapter with a dovetail, which accepts the Topeak bag.

Here are the wooden clips which hold it to the rack:

Monday, November 20, 2017

Taig Stepper-Driven Leadscrew

I made an electronic leadscrew for my friend. It uses the standard Taig mill x-axis leadscrew with Nema 23 motor mount. My original design had a leadscrew made with precision ACME threaded rod. It didn't use common parts and wasn't adjustable for backlash. The Taig component was only $115 and it came with motor mount, graduated dial, and has adjustable backlash.

I only had to make two parts for it. It was a little fidgety getting all the dimensions correct, but I managed. To put it on or take it off, once the leadnut mount is aligned, it's just a matter of loosening three screws.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Observation of Oscillation

As products of nature, we oscillate. Like waves of the ocean, swaying of a tree, wings of a bird, and most other natural things, we are made in a world that uses half the time for resetting.

Our tools reflected that for most of the time we've used them: the swing of an adze, the back-and-forth of a saw or file, the breathing of bellows, the pull of a bow or thread through a cloth. Even drills were spun in both directions for thousands of years.

Come the industrial revolution, we rapidly discovered ways to omit the resetting half of the cycle. As common as it is to see things rotating continuously now, it was actually an unusual sight for most of history, aside from wheels. For a while we had modern tools that mimicked the oscillation of nature: the power hacksaw, the shaper, the frame-type sawmill, even piston-type engines. One-by-one, they became obsolete, replaced by their more efficient continuously-rotating successors. Even now, piston engines are being replaced by turbines and electric motors. Web pages once had a beginning and end, now many load content as we scroll: there is no end-

This shift certainly has many positive aspects. But we find ourselves, our own bodies, trying to continuously rotate. We try to match our continuously rotating surroundings, to find ourselves ill and sad as a result.

Regressing in our technology at this would do far more harm than good, but we need to remember that we are products of nature. Half of the time is for resetting: sleeping, sitting, breathing out, looking at the sky, and pooping.

Please take care--our lives depend on it

Friday, October 20, 2017

Beanbags, Wooden Box

Made for my mom, who uses these as props in her job as a therapist. They do seem to have a life, personality. Above, they are all just hanging out with full bellies.

I also made a wooden box for my transfer punches. The bright orange plastic holder they came with was hard on the eyes. I really made this one the hard way: picked up a pallet on my bike, dismantled it, resawed and finished with hand tools.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Patches, Boots, Bat, I'm Back-

Hex pants patches. After moving away from the wood shop, I'm back to thread, needle, and small machining. I have a few bigger sewing projects in the making which will be posted here as they are finished-

 I made this patch for a talented friend to sew onto something.

Another friend needed me to reinforce some new soccer boots for him. He's worn the same ones for five or six years, and they discontinued making them; quite a let-down as they fit his odd-shaped feet better than everything he's tried. His current pair is held together by a fine wisp of leather and a wish. After searching the internet up and down, he found a pair that's a half-size too small, but good enough.

I've done this before to new boots for him. He claims it doubles or triples their life. As this is the last pair in existence, he told me to go FULL SEND on the stitching this time. This is kevlar V-346 thread with a 130 lb break strength, which will be epoxied over.

The .020" music wire is the trick to sewing inside shoes:

Also drew a watercolor bat for my girlfriend's sister's birthday:

I haven't posted in a while due to moving house--we had a frustrating exchange with enturyCay inkLay (paranoid... perhap): basic internet was advertised as $30/mo, they bumped it up to $40/mo after we signed up, and by error or design, the first bill was to be $189. Cancellation fee before the 1 yr contract was over was supposedly $250, but after many hours on hold we learned that we would only pay for the days of service provided if we cancelled in the first two weeks (and sent back the proprietary router). We got two days of service which should have cost $2.60 by their claim. They sent us a bill for $56, making it look like they didn't process the cancellation. More hours on hold to find out we weren't supposed to pay that bill. Then a $13 bill came, which was as close to $2.60 as we dared to hope for. Paid it immediately, and got a letter a week later saying they hadn't received payment for the $13 bill. That letter was a mistake too it turns out. Total time spent navigating their labyrinth was easily 12 hours. We are now free from their slimy talons as far as I can tell.

After that, we decided to live without wired internet. I can use my phone (republic wireless, a bit more honest) as a 3g hotspot. Photos from now on will be low-resolution for that reason-

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Bench + Microscope

Pardon the poor photos. I finally have the big parts made of a bench I've had planned for six months. Top is 24" long and o'all height with microscope stand is 45".

I wanted something heavy, low to the ground, and stout. I find myself often trying to coax precision out of a hacksaw or file. A jiggling, walking, insecure bench has caused me much anguish and injury in the past. This bench and vise combo isn't going anywhere fast.

I also wanted a versatile vise which would hold onto parts with confidence. I decided on a 6" Kurt for ease of jaw change and robustness. It's not as ergonomic as other options, but I can easily hold other more delicate workholding fixtures in it if necessary.

I recently started sharpening surgical tools, and got a binocular microscope for the purpose. Couldn't stomach the cost of a commercially available stand right now, so I built one. While lacking a fine-adjust for focusing on fixed surfaces, it works great. The counterweight portion of the lower arm envelops a few blocks of metal to help balance it. I thought this bench would make a nice station for sharpening.

The microscope mount accommodates an acrylic shield to prevent my unworthy troglodyte implements from damaging the lens.

These handles lock down the two attachments. Both bases have shallow concavities in the bottom, to ensure they clamp securely. The screws are mortised into the bases so they don't spin.

Here are some wooden jaws I made for the kurt. They are held with the "dovelock master jaws".

I made this wooden piece to adapt some cheap 5v LED lights to my noga mag base, for lighting under the microscope.

Below is a rendering of how I expect to use the table for precision work. The wooden stick will probably be replaced with more complex shapes and fixtures suited to the task.