Project Time

I'm getting back into doing DIY projects at home, which makes me very happy. In general for the past few months, I've been thinking way too much about work and not doing things that make me happy. I'm shifting things back into proportion that will make me happier. The other day I finally bought myself a new sewing machine. It will get delivered soon, which makes me happy. And I'm going to use it for a big new project, which should be fun. I've also made a few stools for my brother's pub, which was fun. I still wouldn't call myself a good woodworker, but I'm improving which is all I can ask for. Still haven't done much welding though and I would like to get into that. But today I spent a good chunk of money on supplies for my new hush-hush project that's going to be a gift for someone. I'm looking forward to working on that for the next few months.

New Speaker

I bought this speaker yesterday to give to my Mom.

I bought the speaker because my Mom wants to listen to my brother's podcast, but her ipad doesn't get loud enough for her to hear. My brother bought the JBL - Xtreme Portable Bluetooth Speaker and recommended that I buy it for my Mom, which was my intention. However, when I got to Best Buy, I found it cost $300, which was a lot more than what I wanted to spend. Instead I found the one above, which I bought for basically $100. I charged it last night and have been listening to it and it should work fine. But I'm not crazy about this speaker.

I understand that this is entirely a portable speaker, so it runs on a battery. The battery is recharged using a usb cable. So periodically, you need to plug it in to your laptop. When I was looking at these in the store, a guy came up to me and started talking about these speakers. He said that the usb cord only charges the battery. So if your battery is dead, you can't just plug this in to your laptop and use it. You have to wait for the battery to charge. And in a year or two, when the battery no longer takes a charge, the speaker will be garbage because there's no other way to run it. I'm not sure if he's right, but he said that he has the jbl one that my brother has and had wished that he knew that before he bought it. If that is true, and I'm leaning to believe that, it's really poor design. So I was looking for something that I could just plug in to use. I get that it means it wouldn't be portable at that point, but at least it would be usable if the battery died.

Then I started to think about how I'd use the speaker and I realized that for me, portability isn't that big of a deal. But I like the idea of connecting via bluetooth. I mainly have Apple products and I have an airport express that is connected to my stereo to use, so I could play sound via that. But, it limits me to Apple products, like iTunes. I listed to lots of podcasts and I'd like to be able to play them on my bluetooth speaker. And I could use iTunes for my podcasts, but I like using Clementine. And I'll be honest, part of this is that I want to move away from Apple products. This could be an entirely different post, but Apple is moving in a direction that I don't necessarily want to go. As an example, they've taken most built-in connections off of their laptops. You get a single usb-c connection. Then you have to spend even more to buy all these dongles to do things that used to be built-in. I still use my ethernet connection a lot. I'm a system administrator and have to check if jacks are live or not. I also use usb a lot. I really don't want to have to carry a handful of dongles everytime I go to someone's office to check things. Right now, I need to be able to support Apple, Windows and linux. My macbook pro has been great in that I can run virtual machines with each of those operating systems, so I check things in all of those. The one improvement that I would like from Apple would be to be able to get more ram to make my virtual machines run better. I've upgraded my macbook pro from 2012 to 16gb of ram. Five years later and that's still the most I can get. In fact, I bought a new (to me) macbook pro from Apple's clearance section because it still had usb connections. It doesn't have the network one, but Apple has definitely given up on that port. In my mind, I'm thinking this is probably the last laptop I'll be buying that I'll use at work. Once I'm not longer working, I can use whatever OS I want and these days I'm leaning toward linux. And so I've been looking at programs that I want to use that run on linux. That's how I found Clementine and it's worked fine for me. So getting off this tangent I just took, I like the idea of a bluetooth speaker because it doesn't care what the OS is.

I haven't been able to find a bluetooth speaker that I like, so my idea now is to build what I like. I like the YouTube channel Kirby Meets Audio and I actually bought some plans from him. It looks like a fun project and I think it would be exactly what I want. We'll see how it goes.

Birthday Project Result

I took my book out of the press this morning. It's not perfect, but it's not at all bad for my first attempt.

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The cover looks good.

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This is my first mistake. I glued the cover paper too much to the text block. I think I maybe did 1/4" of glue. It should have been much less.

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Here you can see a bit better that I glued too high on the cover.

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And I made the same mistake on the back cover.

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The back looks good. But the cover overhangs the pages of the book too much. I think instead of adding and extra inch of leather for the cover, I should have just added and extra 1/2" to fold over.

But, by and large, I'm happy with the result. And now, I'm going to start using it as my own cookbook.

Birthday Project Part 2

My post yesterday wasn't accurate. I hadn't yet finished my text block. I still had to put the cover pages on it and the reinforcing paper. Before that though, I had to glue the binding. I made a book press out of a couple of pieces of wood and some clamps.

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I put two coats of glue on the binding. Then I pressed the book. I just put it back between the wood and put some weights on it. In the picture below, this is not nearly enough weight. The pages were a little wrinkly.

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Next, I glued my orange cover pieces on. This is a little heavier paper.

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After that, another piece of paper is added for extra support.

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At this point, my text block was done. Now I just had to figure out how to make a cover. I didn't really want this to have a thick, hard cover, but something thinner. Then I remembered that I bought a piece of leather to play around with, so why not use that. I traced the book outline, then added 1/2 inch extra for the cover to go beyond the paper and then another 1" to fold over. And I cut it out.

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This is the point where I actually realized that my weights on wood wasn't going to work. So I ran to Ace Hardware and bought some bolts, washers and wingnuts and built a sort of press. I then put the text block in there to try to flatten all the pages.

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Back to the cover. I was supposed to trim the corners sort of like below for folding. I'm not exactly sure how they were supposed to be cut, but I was close. (Though in the end not close enough.)

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Next I had to glue the parts of the cover to fold over. In the video, the person used hot glue. I don't have a hot glue gun, so I just used the pva glue I had been using. In the photo below, I can tell you that I used WAY too much glue. It made a big mess.

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Since the leather was sort of thick, I tried putting my weights on the edge to hold it down.

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That really didn't work, so I got a board and some clamps and used them. This worked much better.

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On the last edge, I finally figured out how much glue I should be putting down. Below shows how much I squeezed out of the jar and then how it looked after I smoothed it with my finger.

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And here is my final cover. Note that the corners are not near square, which fits with my inability to make anything square. But it's not horrible for my first attempt ever.

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Now, because I'm just like Cowboy X from Sesame Street, I had to use my brand.

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Based on the horrible smell that the brand made on the leather, I never want to be on a farm when they are branding cows.

Now the last step is to glue the text block to the cover. Here I'm laying it out to make sure I know where to put glue and where to put down the text block.

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I didn't take a picture of it with the glue on it, but here's how it looked before putting it in the press.

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And here it is, drying in the press. I added a couple more clamps to try to make it as smooth as possible.

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I'll leave it to dry overnight and see how it all turns out tomorrow. Fingers crossed that it's not too horrible.

Along with the YouTube video I posted yesterday for how to create the text block, I also referenced these videos.

Birthday Project

I'm on my annual birthday vacation. Just took three days this year instead of the whole week. And instead of taking a class somewhere, I decided to try to teach myself how to bind a book. Technically, I should say I'm learning how to do this from YouTube videos. First up, I folded and cut a bunch of paper. Then I had to sew them into a text block. I followed the video below:

The instructions were great and below is my text block.

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It's not perfect, but I think it's pretty good for a first attempt. I also know that if I do this again, I need to get an awl with a really sharp point. Or put a handle on a needle to poke the holes through the paper.

Next, I need to glue it up and then figure out how to put a cover on. But that's another video to watch.

The Spice Rack

My brother-in-law requested a spice rack for his kitchen. And my brother sent me this link (https://www.amazon.com/Seville-Classics-3-Tier-Expandable-Organizer/dp/B001E2864K) to see if I could copy it. I knew that the rack had to hold 31 jars of spices and that each jar was basically 2 1/4" in diameter and 3" tall. So I figured four shelves were needed and the overall width of it should be 20 inches. I also had some maple boards in my garage that were old shelves from my condo. I figured I could split them on my table saw (which turned out to be difficult) and then cut out the pieces I needed. I'm very happy that I could use wood I already had for this, since I wasted a lot of the board when I couldn't split it easily or evenly. I just used glue to hold everything together because the wood was pretty thin and I thought screws or nails would split it.

The first thing I did was cut out the sides, which were like a set of stairs.
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The next step was to basically connect the sides.
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Then I just cut pieces to be the "treads" and "risers" of the stairs. However, I don't really have great cutting skills and I think my table saw blade wasa a bit dull AND my fence wasn't quite square. Due to all of these, the places where the boards all met didn't fit tightly together, as shown below.
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I also screwed up by cutting the front piece on the bottom stair on the inside of the two sides, instead of covering the sides. This just looked bad.
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I "fixed" all of these problems by cutting some small pieces and gluing them over the bad parts. And then because I still wasn't sure they'd like it, I made another one out of some leftover recycled boards.

Here are the final products.

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And here's the final one my brother-in-law picked with all of his spices on it.
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Been A While

My summer has been pretty crazy with a big work conference that is finally over. My life is now my own again. Yay! I've been very behind in doing my monthly checking, but that's ok. The good news is that I don't have to go back to work for over a week. So I'm trying to do a bunch of projects around the house.

First up, I've never posted my video I made of the bookshelf that I made for a friend of mine's birthday. It's below.

That was a lot of fun to do and I want to do more woodworking. One thing though is that I broke my planer. It no longer will plane the really skinny pieces of lathe that I want to glue together. The thinnest I can plane a board is around 1". I think this is because the belt broke and when I fixed it, I must have broken something else. I ended up buying a new planer. It's a less expensive one, which is fine. I'm really just using it to clean up old, dirty wood. I have yet to set it up, so that will probably be one of my projects this week.

It's harvest time in my garden. I've already gotten boatloads of tomatoes. I've given a bunch to my brother and just took a bag full to my Mom today. So I need to research how to make tomato sauce that I can freeze because there's no way I could eat all of these before they go bad. Since the garden worked so well this year, I'll probably make another little area next year. Think I'd like to try to grow lettuce and spinach.

If I'm going to make xmas gifts for people this year, I need to start. And while I like the idea of making bookshelves for people, I don't want to give people a big piece of furniture. That seems a bit much. Anyway, I'm back to working with paper again. I've found some great youtube videos of how to make different types of books and bindings. That looks like fun, so I'll see if I can come up with something cool.

Though, I would still like to make some stuff out of wood because I finally got my brand. I did have a little bit of time to do something fun last month and I designed a brand for myself. I then sent it to Shapeways to get made in stainless steel. It just arrived the other day. I'm quite happy with it.

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Now I need to put a handle on it so I can heat it up and put my brand on things. I bought a threaded rod and a tap and die set today. Hopefully, I can drill a hole and put threads in it. Another project for this week. But once that's done, I should be able to brand just about anything.

Reading Again

Work was fast becoming overwhelming of late, so I have taken to quitting email when I leave work and not checking it again until I get back to the office to keep my sanity. And I've been trying to close my laptop up more and stay offline. For a short time, I feared I was addicted to the internet, but I'm pretty sure I'm not. I just like to read and I was reading a lot of stuff online. These days, I've started up my weekly (or every other weekly) visit to my local library. I've read a number of books and it makes me happy. Now that I've fully accepted that I should wear reading glasses, I'm happy again reading books.

This morning, I just finished on called "Resilience" by Eric Greitens. The guy is a former (are you not supposed to say former?) Navy Seal who is writing letters to a fellow seal who is having a tough time. This is the second time that I've read a book of letters and the format is growing on me. (The first was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which I loved.) Anyway, the tag line is hard-won wisdom for living a better life. It's basically a bunch of philosophy, but pretty easy to understand. And while I'm not nor ever had any desire to be a Navy Seal or even in the military, I thought it was interesting. Plus, I'm a sucker for anything that will "help you live a better life", since I'm forever wondering if I'm doing it wrong.

What I wanted to note here were two lines from the book that really struck me. The first is this:

People who think you weak will offer you an excuse. People who respect you will offer you a challenge.

People who leave the military, especially those who are hurt in some way, are often never asked again to do anything for others. It seems like everyone thinks they've already given enough and shouldn't ask any more of them. But this then leaves the former soldiers or sailors aimless. They don't really have a purpose and no one is asking anything of them. The author says that this is why a lot of former military get messed up with drinking and doing nothing. I'm not that familiar with people in the military, but the line made a lot of sense to me (I love a good challenge, just ask my Mom.) and I couldn't stop thinking about it for quite a while.

The other bit was a passage about work/life that he says he sees in the entrance to his building. He says it's by an english minister from the 1930s. I googled it and found that it's from a guy Lawrence Pearsall Jacks (or L.P. Jacks as he's usually known).

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.

I completely agree with this. This is why I've always said that I love my job. It's really no different than what I'd be doing for fun. (Despite the recent onslaught of email I'm dealing with.) I'm starting to try to not to make a distinction between my mind and my body, which I think is good. My weeks of therapy on my knee are starting to pay off and I feel like doing more things again. I think I might like to print this out and hang it somewhere in my house. It makes me happy when I read it.

It’s Funny

I'm a huge fan of YouTube for learning how to do different things. I've been watching tons of YouTube videos for woodworking while I try to build stuff with my reclaimed wood. Last weekend, I decided got a beanbag chair that had no cover. So I decided to make a new cover for it and in the process broke something on my sewing machine. So I was looking around YouTube for some help on fixing it. In the process, I watched a bunch of videos on sewing. It was so funny to me how the genders of the people hosting the videos just changed. For woodworking, I can think of one female who made videos. Everyone else was guys. For sewing, it's all women. This just struck me as very funny.

Early Gift to Me

Since I had been doing a bit more work in my basement, I was continually using my old workbench and it was annoying me more and more. It's more of a cheap worktable than workbench. But the big issue is that it was just really too tall for me. It was around 36" tall and I think that I'd prefer a workbench that was quite a bit lower. It really hit me when I was trying to use a handplane to clean up some old lathe. Along with being too tall, it was also too wobbly, which made planing impossible. So I found a design online that didn't look too hard. I took apart the old table and made myself a new workbench.

Old table:
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New workbench:
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The height is definitely better on the new one. It's really only 30" tall. I'd like to say that it's incredibly sturdy, but I think it still wobbles a little. I only know this because I was trying to plane the top completely smooth. I did an ok job of screwing the top boards together, but one did stick out a little more than the others. While trying to plane it, the whole table did move around a little. Part of the problem is probably due to my handplane not being very sharp. The other is just the design. I think I might put a lower shelf on and then fill it with some old bricks I have lying around. That should give it the heft I need to make it be a good workbench. I might also buy a nice piece of mdf or plywood to put on the top so I don't have to plane or sand the whole thing completely flat.