Sprinkler Tools

I have been doing a lot of trenching and digging in my yard in service of a rock border project that has been going on for months now. One result of that project has been a lot of sprinkler repair. I have broken pipes underground while cutting up roots, and tried to dig straight through hidden sprinklers. That plus regular sprinkler maintenance has been a new chore for me. The last house didn’t have them and I am learning on the fly what I have and how to fix it.

Most of this is pretty routine plumbing, but repairing or replacing sprinkler heads is a bit different. They are buried, and often very overgrown with grass. Once you get to them, they tend to be tough to pull out of the ground. To help with all this I 3D printed some tools.

First up is a large hole saw looking device. A 1/4-20 bolt fits in the center and gets chucked up in a drill. It has a 3in ID which encompasses all my sprinkler heads. I had a sprinkler that needed to get an extension put on it, so I used it as an example. The bit breaks up the soil and grass around the sprinkler head making it easier to fully expose and extract.

Even with the grass broken up it is still hard to get a hold on those sprinklers without doing a lot of digging. To help with that I made a tool that grabs onto the ribs around the head and provides a good handle. It made extracting the unit very easy.

That one is designed for a Toro 570 series sprayer. I also have some Hunter PGP sprinklers that rotate on their own. Those are a lot bigger and require a different tool to extract. All the designs are bundled together on a single thingiverse post.

Rotted Back Door

One of the lingering repair issues on our new house was a rotted back door jamb. It is on the porch well under the roof line. A thing I noticed though is that when it rains really hard the gutters over flow and water backs up to this door on the pool deck.

This showed up on the home inspection. I probably shouldn’t have let it go this long, but what can I say? I started chiseling away at the rot and found it was pretty heavy down low, but didn’t go too far up. The 2x4s in the walls ok. They must have some kind of treatment to help prevent rot.

Once I was done putting out the rotted stuff I squared everything up so I could start putting new material back in.

I went with a foundation of pressure treated wood with PVC wood on the outside. The thicknesses didn’t all match up in places. I don’t really care that much, this will definitely not rot.

I did some heavy calking to fill all gaps and painting to keep the wood that is left in good shape. A lot of the door seal is missing at the bottom, but I haven’t seen anything splash against this door, just the rising tide of rainwater backing up. The closet is not under AC, so the seal wouldn’t matter for that either.


I fixed the door rot, but really the root problem is water backing up on the porch. I fixed the door 2 months ago, and it took me working off and on all that time to fully address every aspect of the problem.

First off, the gutters often fill with leaf debris which causes them to backup and overflow on the porch. I have been keeping the gutters clear, but still get overflow sometimes. As it turns out, when it rains hard enough, the water has a lot of velocity coming off the roof, and it can skip out of the gutter.

Next up is the channel drains in my deck. In doing some reading, paint isn’t good for them. I noticed in places the deck paint had completely covered the drainage slits. I used a pressure washer with the narrowest stream to strip the paint off the channel drain.

That was an improvement, but they still didn’t drain well. I picked up a pressure washer drain jetter hose. It is a pressure washer hose with a bullet shaped fitting on the end that shoots water forward and backwards at an angle to help you break up clogs and flush out drains and gutters. It was messy work, but I managed to flush the years of sand and sludge from my deck channel drains.

More improvement, but still not all in the clear. It turns out a root had grown up inside the side of the drain near the rotted door. The channel would move water, but was half full of roots, and didn’t drain as quickly as it should. A lot of work later, I got the roots cleared out.

With gutters clear, paint off the drainage slits, sludge out of the channels, and roots cleared out, it seems like they drain well now. Even if it doesn’t work perfectly every time, this should flood my porch a lot less than it has in the past. I will keep an eye on the water level and check the bottom of that door for cracks. The joys of home ownership.

Straight Edge Clamp Saw Guide

Track saws are one of the hot new things in woodworking. I guess they have been around for a while, but it seems like every power tool company has jumped on the bandwagon. They look handy and appear perform nice clean cuts with the way the track backs the saw blade. They are all really expensive though.

A cheap substitute is to use a clamped straight edge to run your saw or router up against. It works, but doesn’t prevent you from wondering away from the guide and doesn’t back the cut. I have a few clamping straight edges from a company called E Emerson. They sell a saw plate to attach your own circular saw to their track, but it has abysmal reviews and doesn’t back up any of the cuts.

Instead I am going to 3D print an adapter to hold a sheet of 1/2″ plywood to act as a moving saw plate base. I took a pile of measurements and after a few iterations came up with the right design that would hug the tracks available on the clamp.

I had some phenolic faced plywood left over from making my own table saw inserts. I cut the plywood to the rough size of my circular saw base, and attached two long guides.

To attach the saw, I tried printing some different bracket styles, but was never happy with how they held. Instead I found a 1/4″-20 threaded hole in the base near the front to take advantage of (I think it was for some kind of moveable crosscut guide you could buy), and just drilled a hole in the back. It worked out though, the ribbing in the saw plate holds a nut perfectly. I counterbored holes in the bottom to keep the screw heads from interfering with the plate’s movement.

The saw is well fixed now and ready for me to plunge the blade through. With this setup I cut a slot that is perfectly sized for the blade. Now any cutting I do will be well supported and have little to no tear out. It is like a moving zero clearance insert.

It just so happens that I had a full sized sheet of plywood that required crosscutting down to reasonable sized for a project. Here is the setup ready for its first cut.

Everything went smoothly until I got to the end. The guides got hung up on the folding clamp lever (blue and pointing downward in this picture). It left me with a few extra inches of plywood still left un-sawed. Kind of a bummer.

I regrouped and decided to move the front guide back until it touched the rear one, this would buy me a little. It still wasn’t quite enough, and some heavy sanding was required. Once I shaved it down at an angle I was able to make a complete cut across the plywood.


Once I got the cutting part figured out I wanted a set of guides. Setting up one of these straight edges always involves a bit of math. You need to know the distance from the blade to the edge of the saw plate, and are you concerned about the inside or outside edge of the saw kerf? I made a set of plywood blanks that show exactly where your cut will land. Now you can make a mark. line the blanks up, and voila. Just line it up and that is where the cut will happen.

I made a number of different length guides all designed for 1/2″ plywood and uploaded them to thingiverse.

TPU Printing Tips

Printing flexible filaments holds a mixture of horror and delight. On one hand making something squishy and flexible allows for custom grips, cushions, dampers, and all sorts of fun wiggly toys. On the other hand it can print like a nightmare. I had enough bad experiences early on I nearly completely swore off printing flexibles. Eventually I had someone requesting some flexy parts, so I got back into it.

Most printable flexible filaments are either TPE (Thermo Plastic Elastomer), or TPU (Thermo Plastic Urethane). TPEs tend to be a little softer, but you can print a structure with more infill to make it stiffer, or less to make it more complaint.

Problem 1: Bed Removal

Normally when 3D printing it is a hurdle to get things to stick to the bed. Not so with TPU. It sticks to the bed sheet material with such fervor that it will actually peel the PEI layer off the bed. I did this in the past and was upset about it. I found spreading down talc powder helped, but never fully alleviated the issue. Then along came my little purple friend.

I have heard people talk about glue sticks to help print adhesion. I never had any luck with normal hard plastics. But it acts as kind of a barrier or release agent with TPU. Sticky enough that it won’t come off during printing, but soft enough the part can be peeled off. It builds up over time, but is water soluble, so just wash it away in the sink. A thing layer is all you need. I never heat the bed when printing TPU.

Problem 2: Loading

Once I tackled the removal issues a little while back I was happy to perform occasional prints. Loading flexible filament could be a pain though. Half the time it would jam and wrap around the extruder. I did some reading and experimenting and came up with a two part solution.

When loading, increase the temp 10-20 degrees. It makes the TPU flow better. My Prusa has an automatic filament loading function. It detects the filament, loads quickly, then slows down to extrude new filament and flush the old residue. That initial quick load gets me in trouble about half the time. Instead I insert the filament, but not all the way to the extruder gear. I let it perform the fast load, then push it in the rest of the way when it slows down. It hasn’t jammed yet using that method.

Problem 3: Stringing

My TPU prints had crazy stringing. It was annoying, but a set of side cutters would take care of it. I was just so happy to be printing flexible materials I didn’t care at first. Now I am annoyed at the post process work required. I started googling and came up with some things to try.

First up, a number of places talked about the flexible materials not working well with retractions. It is flexible and might jam, but I thought that would make the stringing worse. Sure enough, it was a lot worse.

My original settings were what came with the Prusa Slicer. No retraction caused considerably worse stringing. Ok, how about instead we lower temperature, that was supposed to help out.

Sure enough, that worked. It makes sense, the stuff wants to solidify faster. I checked the manufacturer of my filament, and 240C is a little hotter than they suggest. I tried one at 220C, but was starting to get poor layer adhesion. I also slowed down the retraction speed from 35mm/min to 20. Some stringing still exists, so I will try to retract further.

Even better! There are some nubs left (hard to see with black filament), but this is so much better than before. I will call this good for now, but might go back in the future and do more turning.

While I was testing these I was slowly increasing my initial Z off set. They were coming off the bed more easily with 100um of increased Z height without significant impact to the bottom layer quality. It turns out you can alter the first layer Z height in the slicer, so I made that change for my flexible material profile.

Summary:

TPU sticks too well?

  • Use a layer of purple glue stick on the print surface, it acts as a release agent
  • Increase initial Z height so first layer doesn’t get pressed in so hard

TPU strings badly?

  • Reduce temperature till you have layer adhesion or jam issues, then back up. Lower temps have less stringing.
  • Longer retractions at slower speeds might be needed.

What does one print with flexible material? Well Those test prints were feet for my macbook laptop. The originals keep falling off and getting lost, so I have been printing new ones and gluing them on.

Speaking of feet, I printed a set of vibration damper feet (thingiverse link) for the printer. The first set looked so ugly I figured I had to spend some time tuning to get rid of all this stringing. The before and after tuning results are pretty dramatic.

Other fun prints are a set of flexible hex bit holders (thingiverse link). They grip well enough to keep the bits from slipping out, but are easy to insert and remove. I tried making a set from hard plastic, but they just don’t compare.

Lastly the support arm on my tablesaw had a rubber guard to keep you from catching the edge. It got lost ages ago and and I have found it to be very uncomfortable when impacted at walking speeds. I made a push on flexible cap, but it too got lost after a few months. This one bolts into place in such a way as not to interfere with the fence. I bet I won’t be losing this one. Hopefully I won’t be racking my hip on it either.

Cutting Board Wedding Gift

I am about 6 months late on this wedding gift, but better late than never! I wouldn’t normally add yet another post to the internet about making a butcher block cutting board, but this one had a few noteworthy mistakes I thought I would share along with a juice groove, which is a novel endeavor for me. Isn’t it funny how cutting boards call for half the clamps in your shop?

Lesson 1: Melamine Does Not Resist Glue

I had some spare plywood with melamine face that I thought would make a good glue up surface. It is flat and strong and the wood glue will not stick to it. Imagine my surprise when the board wouldn’t come off. I employed numerous wedges and was eventually able to break it free. I don’t know what they use to hold the face down, but my glue is better. I guess you need to wax it to prevent adhesion. I will go back to using wax paper like I did before.

Lesson 2: Helical Cutters Work Wonders

On a more positive note after scraping off the glue ridges I tried to send the board through the planer. Normally using a planer on end grain like this yields poor results. I had it shoot the board out of my last planer in pieces. My new helical cutter works wonders, the top looks gorgeous now.

Lesson 3: Watch Your Glue Up

I thought I was being really careful with this build. I measured and planned everything out so there was a 1:2:3 pattern to the size of the blocks in the board. That worked out, but I failed to flip the last piece properly when gluing. The pattern repeats on that last row.

Lesson 4: Juice Groove

I cut the last row off and re-sanded the end. Despite some minor road bumps this was going well. Time to press my luck even further and add a whole new feature! There are a lot of ways of doing a juice groove. Setting up stop blocks on the router table seemed to be quick, safe, and reliable.

I used that row that was cut off to experiment. You have to use a lot of pressure up against the fence or else the bit will wonder. Ok, now on to the real thing.

It was quick, it was safe, and it is certainly a groove. Not 100% reliable though. It looks straight everywhere, but overshoot exists at some corners. I don’t know if the stops shifted, or if my measurements were just off. Maybe I won’t be using this technique any more.

The Finish

Over all I would call the board a success. It came out slightly smaller than intended and the juice groove has a little wonder to it. Otherwise the oiling process made me very happy I with my efforts.

I kept pooling mineral oil on the top surface and let it soak in. That juice groove kept the oil from spilling over the edges. Eventually it saturated through all the way to the bottom side.

Bandsaw Outfeed Table

I have a project coming up that will require a long resaw cut on my band saw. Resawing is where you sit a board up on its skinny side and cut down the length. I love my bandsaw, but when it comes to doing long work the small table has left me in the lurch. The bandsaw is a tall tool so that most roller type outfeed supports don’t come close to high enough. I am going to add a removable outfeed table to the back end to help with these kinds of scenarios.

I have some phonelic resin covered plywood that makes good slick surfaces for things like this. The resin surface can chip off if hit on the edges though. I made a frame to hold the plywood, protect the edges, and give me a place to bolt too. This could have been done in pine, but I am trying to increase the quality of my infrastructure work, so I went with maple instead. I routed a groove on the router table and used my roundover templates to make the corners match on the plywood insert.

After gluing and pinning it through the side I did a careful trim with a block plane to get the outside frame and inside surface to be perfectly flush. This made fun little corkscrew shaped shavings. Now anything sliding across wouldn’t get caught on a lip or edge, and the sides of the plywood will remain protected. This is another place where hand tools make the job a lot safer and less likely to induce disasters than something with a motor would do.

With the table top complete I needed a support leg to help keep the back end from sagging. Making it screw together let me turn two short pieces of plywood into a longer one, and helped with fine tuning the outfeed level.

A hinge attaches the support leg to the under side of the table top. There was a good place for the bottom of the foot where the bandsaw base meets the cabinet it sits on. This will let the table support a decent amount of weight without sagging.

The bandsaw’s table top has two bolt holes in the back that accept M6 screws. I got some socket head cap screws and bolted the front of the outfeed into the back of the cast iron top. The back support leg keeps the rest of the table top up under load. I finished everything with boiled lineseed oil and wax.

The table is almost exactly the same width as the iron top, but doubles the total length. Now I can resaw a 3ft board without worry about it dropping off the back end. As a bonus, the outfeed table doesn’t interfere with anything behind it when pushed into its resting place. Nor does it interfere with the fence. Basically I will probably never take this off.

April 2019 Prints

RTIC Tumbler Handle

For some reason RTIC has changed the shape of their 30oz tumbler. Not sure if YETI did this, and they followed suit or what. I suspect it is a plot to sell more handles and accessories. As it stands, the old handle I designed doesn’t fit on the new style of cup any more. The taper angle and diameters are just a little different.

My old handle was printed in 2 parts because most low end printers (including the one I owned at the time) couldn’t print something that big. Now a days at least a 6×6 bed size is pretty bog standard. This new design will be all one piece. The cup is large enough in diameter that getting my calipers on it wasn’t going to work. I printed some rings of different diameters and used them to estimate the taper angle of the new cup.

With that figured out I just printed a new handle that looks a lot like the old one, only with slightly more finger room and a longer grip. Thingiverse link

Drawer Pull Centering Jig

I picked up a Kreg cabinet handle jig for one of my recent projects, and because handles are something you install pretty frequently. It is certainly possible to do them well without a jig, but that always makes repetitive work easier. The jig does a good job of setting the height and width of the holes. It doesn’t center them on the drawer though. I made a few add ons to help with that.

I took a length Kreg track that you would normally imbed into a table to make moveable hold downs. Instead, this becomes part of the top fence used to set depth. Now with a spacer it registers across the whole top edge of the drawer. That also lets you use an edge stop. Now it is all centered. Once set you can put handles in the same drawer position over and over again with no more measurements or adjustments. The only downside is that there was a scale on the back of the jig for setting depth. That no longer measures true because this vertical stop doesn’t register where the old one did.

Router bits

Storage and organization is a place where the printer continues to be endlessly helpful. I have had this nice router bit set for years, but always had trouble getting the bits back in their slot. They end up clanking around the drawer and taking up more space than they should. A simple printed tray gives them each a home and takes up a lot less drawer space. For smaller prints like this, a label maker works better than trying to 3D print the text.

More Dust Collection Adapters

Woodworking Dust Collection Rule 1: No two dust collection ports are ever the same size… EVER

Once again I find myself trying to fit a dust collection hose on to some of my tools and wind up having to 3D print a custom solution. Why is it always like this? This time it is a port for my random orbit sander to 1.25″ hose (which isn’t really 1.25″), one for my belt sander, and an adapter to go from that hose to my dust deputy inlet (which has some funky taper on it). The good news is that the ridges left over from 3D printing these always helps the adapter stay in place, even if it isn’t perfect. This is exactly why industry standards and groups like ASME and SAE exist.