Side Table Organization

My side table is a mess. It kind of always has been, but now I have a small one crawling around and yanking on every cable he finds. I can see a job as an electrician in his future. He loves wires! Here is the horror.

I can’t even bare to show the top side, it is not safe for the internet. In order to cleanup and keep my little guy safe from random power cords I started moving things to the underside of the table. The first step would be to anchor the power strip. Everything else would revolve around that. I measured the mounting hole spacing and made a drill template on the 3D printer.

Now I could start putting down wire anchors. Some of these are closed loops you can use with zip ties or velcro, others are open, and you can slip loops of wire into them. I designed my own, but lots of printed options are available online. I made a set of brackets to strap down my USB power brick. I will leave it under the table, and run the needed free lines around to the top.

As I was going, I realized I didn’t have anything for my laptop’s power brick. I found that velcro straps can make a quick flexible hold down if need be. Much faster and cheaper than printing something custom.

With the underside of the table taken care of I moved on to the top. General cleanup was in order. I wanted to consolidate as many things as possible into a single unit. This block will hold my weather station screen, has space for pens, roku remote, fan remote and echo dot. I printed it with 5% gyroid infill, filled everything with sand, and capped it with epoxy. Hot glue makes for thin grippy feet. Just squirt on the hot glue once it has gotten fully up to temp, smash the block down on a silicone glue mat. After a few when it is all cold the glue mat should peel off easily.

To help with all the speaker cables I made a box that slides around the backside of the sub-woofer. I screwed the speakers to the sides so they couldn’t be pulled out. The rear left and right speakers sit on the far side of our couches. Their wires are getting covers to keep them safe from small hands.

I screwed down some wire cover to the legs of the table. This gave me a place to run up and down the various power and connection cables I needed. The only free thing now is the audio cable between the echo dot and the speaker controller. I might either get a longer cable, or mount that to the underside of the table at some point in the future. The top looks pretty good now, and I have managed to keep it tidy for the last month. On to the next baby-proofing project!

Paint Cabinet Organization

After my spray paint crates got my paints organized, I got to taking a harder look at my cabinet. I 3D printed a series of holders for the different calking tubes I have, then I went through and got rid of some old glues that were past their prime. Next thing I knew I was re-organizing the whole cabinet. This isn’t quite a before shot (Wish I had one of the beginning), but about half way through.

This cabinet has really deep shelves. That is great, but small stuff gets lost and even medium stuff gets hidden. I started making stadium seating for all my cans jars and bottles. I taped together two or three sheets of plywood, then laid out the stair step cuts. Glue bottles are smaller and got more layers that go taller. The wood finishing stuff tends to be bigger, so fewer wider shelves. 1/2″ plywood across the top makes a sturdy mini shelf.

I had a pile of tapes rolling around one of the lower shelves, so I looked for how to store them. I had recently picked up some harbor freight magnetic hooks. Turns out the hook is just a M4 stud, so if you unscrew it you can put in your own screw. I picked up a bunch more hooks and combined them with a stash of M4s I already had. Now I can flexibly store tape all along the inside of the doors.

I put more like things together. The spray paint was up top, but is now down low with the solvents, the glue and calking are together, the wood stains and finish have their own shelf, etc. I cleared up enough room to bring my hot glue out of a packed drawer and in with the other glue stuff. Magnetic bars and plywood gave me a wooden surface on top to attach my printed calking gun holder and a pvc hot glue gun holster. I printed a kimwipe box holder and stuck it to the roof too. Got to think in 3D when maximizing storage here! Use every surface possible.

To summarize, when organizing something like this:

  • Store like with like
  • Get creative about typically unused space (backs of doors, top of cabinet)
  • Make sure you have elevated seating for all shapes and sizes so you can see what you have

Prusa Mk2.5 Bed Flattening

My beloved Prusa is about to turn 4 years old. It has given me lots of years of good service with only a bit of maintenance and some minor upgrades. It is time to show it a little more love. While re-greasing all the bearings I decided to flatten the bed. Normally the bed warp is compensated for by the bed level probe. That is great, but it means the bottoms of your prints can be warped. The Mk3 printers have some simple upgrade using nylon lock nuts. The older printers are designed differently, so that isn’t an option. I do precision alignment professionally, so this should be easy.

First up, I used an octoprint plugin to see how flat my bed really is.

Gross. It is over 1.5mm off on the one corner. To fix this I am going to shim. The situation looks like this. Removable bed on top, heated bed under that, a standoff, then the metal frame. The heated bed and standoff are really tightly screwed together, the standoff was assembled to the metal frame when I built it.

I have brass washers from the hardware store. They turned out to be quite flat and 0.5mm thick. I will be slipping these in between the metal frame and the standoff one corner at a time, then re-testing my flatness.

I can’t drop my high spot, so I have to raise up the low spot to meet it. After adding shims one at a time to the low spots I got really confused. 1 washer added to the front left, made it go down. Also, the back looks flatter than before. I added a washer to the front right because I thought the scale was maybe reversed. It made the back worse!?! I am so confused.

I kept adding and removing washers and not understanding what was happening. I don’t know how it does these calculations and builds the maps, but I am completely confused. After an hour I found another plugin that is designed for the Mk3 nylock upgrade. I don’t have as many adjustment points, but it was still helpful.

According to this I was high on the right, ok in the center and front left, and low in the back left. I started adding shims to the whole setup based on this. Instead of slipping one in at a time I had to take the bed off to get to the center. I used super glue to hold the washers in place so they wouldn’t fall out during assembly.

This worked a lot better. My back right is still a little high, but I don’t have enough shims to continue. I might pick this up later and I can sand down the washers to be thinner if needed. For now though, this is pretty flat. I will avoid the far corner if possible. The other program shows it as being all high. I guess I don’t understand how it calculates 0. Maybe that was my main problem.

Did that do anything, or did I waste 2 hours of time? After all I have been printing for 4 years without it, and that is what a bed level sensor is for. I think it helped. Large prints come out flatter, and I can see that the z stages aren’t doing much compensation as they put down the first layer. For a little time and a modest cost in shims, this was an upgrade I wish I had done ages ago.

By the way, if you do this, 1ea 0.5mm washer was ok with the 8mm screw normally used. If you put in 2, you need a 10mm long screw. The fronts can be socket head cap screws, but the backs have to be button heads to clear the frame. Might want to pick some of those up if you plan on doing this job. I used brass washers for number 4 screws. Your mileage may vary.

Spray Paint Crate

I picked up a few extra cans of spray paint for different things I have in the works. Those added to my modest collection of paints meant I was way over capacity in my limited storage arrangement. I tossed out the old setup (which I forgot to take pictures of), and built myself a set of spray paint crates. This was a nice small project, but probably the biggest woodworking thing I have done since Ira came along. It is good to make sawdust again.

Every good shop project starts with some plywood. I had a lot of 1/2″ lying around from the toy and baby furniture days. The front, back and bottom are 1/2″ ply glued and nailed together with 1/4″ glued and nailed to the sides. It made for a pretty stout box without being too bulky or heavy. With 18 fullish cans, this thing was heavy enough.

For the front and back handles, I could have just drilled out the sides and used a jigsaw, but I wanted something repeatable and re-usable. I 3D printed a jig with a sized cutout for my hand and with a reasonable offset. There is a notch in the center so I can line it up with a mark. Not sure how often I will use this jig, but it was cheap to print, worked like a charm, and should last a long time.

With the handle cut out I rounded the corners with my corner radius template and then used my trim router to round everything over. Some quick sanding later and the handle area was smooth and comfortable.

The assembly was as mentioned before. Glue and brad nails. I eventually let that dry and put a coat of boiled linseed oil on these to make sure they stay together for a long time. They are just the right size for fitting in the bottom shelf of my paints cabinet. It need more cleanup and rearranging to get the second one in there. That calls for more shop organization!

Mini Dixie Cup Support

First up, having a kid is not good for your project blog life. Good thing it is just a hobby and not a source of revenue! I got this one done during a few nap times.

I use these little 3 and 5oz dixie cups a lot around the shop. Uses include: holding screws/parts, mixing paints and epoxies, holding glue, filling and funneling stuff, etc. A lot of the time there are pop-sickle sticks and acid brushes sticking out of the cups, and they fall over. I was trying to paint 3d printer resin (cool post coming, eventually, about this) and my cup kept falling over. I finished my resin job and got to measuring the cups and making a solution.

The cups are different enough that each required its own holder. One turned out to be snugger than the other, but they both fit well enough to prevent tipping. I probably could have left it there, but went the extra mile. I printed two sets of each with no infill. I used the slicer to make a hole in the bottom to allow filling the hollow cavity.

I always keep a big bucket of sand around for filling objects to make them heavier and damp vibrations. These all got a fill of sand until there was only a small bit of space left. Next I mixed up a little slow cure epoxy and injected just enough to flow out of the hole. I wiped the entrance, tapped the hole with painters tape, then let them cure upright.

With the epoxy cured they make for really stable dependable holders. Next time I do one of these I will try one of the open infill patterns like gyroid. The gaps might be big enough for the sand to trickle through and infiltrate all the infill areas. It will likely take a lot of shaking, but it would make for a lot stronger part. Using pure epoxy would be easier, but the sand is such a cheap way to weight things like this down.

Soldering Helping Hands

I haven’t done much in the way of projects since the arrival of our son. Life is by no means back to normal (nor will it ever be again), but I have managed to get enough free time while working on the wee one to get some printing done. I haven’t documented any of it for lack of time, but I want to get back to doing that. With my winter break I am going to do another round of printer maintenance and upgrades. This will help in that endeavor.

I will need to do some semi-difficult soldering and don’t have any good helping hands. I could buy a decent set for 30-40 bucks, or I could print them! I picked up adjustable coolant line hose (aka loc-line), alligator clips and a magnet to stick in the base. I stole the idea from Fogl on thingiverse.

I went through a few clips till I found ones that would fit well inside the hose. I liked a smaller clip a little more, but getting it stuck int he nozzle properly was kind of a pain, so I went with the bigger ones. I could still make an adapter to hold different clips in the future.

I pulled off the orange nozzle tips and chamfered the entrance to help insert the clip base. I hammered it in, cross drilled a pilot hole through the hose side, and then screwed a small number 4 screw through to keep it all in place. The clips were pretty secure from the pressure fit, but the screw makes them really solid.

With the clips figured out, I needed a base. I printed a starfish looking pattern with a cavity underneath that holds the magnet. A short wood screw holds it in place. That adds weight to the base and will stick it down to a metal surface if need be. File on PrusaPrinters.

The hose base is some kind of 1/8″ pipe thread. It didn’t match the options I found on thingiverse, thus me making my own version. Instead of trying to match the tiny threads, I just made a slip fit and then screwed sideways through the hose base. Combine that with glue and all should be secure. To give myself little foot pads, I put more glue (E6000) on the bottom and sat it down on a silicone glue mat. Everything peeled right off the mat, and it made perfect little non-skid grippy pads.

Time to break out my new soldering iron!

Meet Ira

The big day finally came! It was nothing like how we planned and involved a long hard labor with a trip to the nicu. All of that is behind us now though and everyone is home safe and recovering. Right before he was born I took a piece of the family wood and engraved a name plate for above his room entrance.

He had a rough start, but is already gearing up to be a space commander some day! He is our biggest project yet. As such, there probably won’t be any posts for the next few months.

Folding Helping Tower

A helping tower is like a step stool you use in the kitchen with a child. It gets them up to a height to be able to help out with basic cooking tasks. Unlike a basic step stool, this has sides and a back so they can be kept in place, and not easily fall off. There are a million different examples online, but most all of them are bulky (by necessity) and end up being a bit of an albatross in the kitchen. I wanted a folding one that could be packed away easily. It took a lot of prototyping, but I did it.

I normally jump into projects, but this one was a very slow methodical trial and error build over nearly 2 months. A broken AC and baby tasks stretched that out a bit. The front frame of the device consists of two permanent uprights with an upper and lower stretcher. To those uprights, a set of folding sides are attached. The right upright is thinner so that the two fold over each other in an overlapping pattern.

The middle stretcher will hold the step and let it swing into place. I needed a strong stop that would support the step and draw the sides into the step. I used a dovetail bit on the bottom of the step to make a slightly angled groove. The stops had the same angle in reverse. Now, the more weight put on the step, the tighter it will draw the sides in.

The seat can fold up and the sides fold in. Everything is compact and easy to deploy. The stops are only 1/2″ thick and don’t interfere with the fold up.

It needed some kind of back to keep people from falling off backwards. A simple swing arm accomplished this task. It was narrow enough so as not to interfere with the unit’s ability to pack up. This had all the rough mechanics I wanted, but was narrower and not as deep as I felt it should be. Also I wanted the step portion to be adjustable as the child grows. On to the next prototypes.

I am going to use dowel nuts and binding screws to make something that was strong, but could be removed and reassembled. It would take a number of holes drilled in the right places to make that work. I planned the sizes of the parts and printed out drill guides that would hold brass tubes to act as drill bushings. The brass won’t last forever, but is easy to cut and insert, and helps keep the hand drilling accurate.

First up I clamped the jig in place and used a transfer punch to mark the centers of where the barrel nuts will go. This makes drilling on the drill press easy.

Next to accommodate the bolts, I need to drill a long hole end-on to meetup with the cross holes. This can’t vary much and the parts are too long to use the drill press, thus the drill jig idea.

With both sets of holes accurately drilled, the nuts and bolts will meet up in the correct spots.

With the folding and adjusting mechanics worked out I could move on to the real thing. I selected 1×3 pine for the uprights and spreaders. The step spreader got its holes drilled with the above jigs, and the other two spreaders received a set of fair curves thanks to my new drawing bows.

Part of the assembly folding out and being stable is having the sides only fold out 90 degrees. They must positively stop when they reach the right angle. I do this by firmly clamping the sides and uprights together and routing a small pocket for the hinges. This 3d print has a center-line mark on it and is perfectly spaced to make a tight mortise for the hinges. The result is a flush hinge and sides that do not swing out past where you need them.

I assembled the step and determined how high it could go when folded up. Too high and the step hits the top spreader. Marking those places I could make a row of holes that would allow the step assembly to adjust as needed. The sides and uprights got a set of holes placed every 2 inches.

To lighten the structure and add something fun, I printed a series of shape templates. Double sticky tape holds them down, and a plunge router cuts them out quickly. I made 8 unique shapes and it really adds a lot.

I put the center spreader in at the top most position and marked where the stops should be. Each one has two t-nuts hammered in place. Bolts go in from the outside to hold those securely. Now to adjust the height you have 8 bolts to remove. 4 from the stops, and 4 from the folding step. The final unit is light, compact when folded, looks decent (even though most of it is plywood), and should have enough room for any kid small enough to need it. The swinging back stop is made with another set of dowel nuts and binding screws. Everything got a coat of shellac as basic protection.

As a final bonus, I was able to cut the shapes out carefully enough that they all survived in tact. I rounded the edges and shellacked them as well.

I want to be able to re-create this again in the future. Here is a rough parts list with sizes. Dowel nuts and binding screws are both 1/4-20s.

6Dowel Nut
4Binding Screw, 5/8”
6Binding Screw 1-3/16”
4T Nut
8Pan head screw, 1-1/2”

1Back Bar: 18-1/4 x 1-1/2”
3Spreaders: 16 x 2-1/2”
1Upright Left: 38 x 2-1/2”
1Upright Right: 38 x 1-3/4”
1Side Left: 36 x 10”
1Side Right: 36 x 10-3/4”
1Step: 16 x 11-1/2”

Moxon Vise

I haven’t hand cut dovetails in a long while, but I have in the past and have a big project coming up that will require a lot of them. My front vise is useful, but not great at clamping wide boards. I bought a bunch of hardware from mcmaster carr before we moved to make my own. In digging around I found it again and decided to restart that project. This is 2+ year old hardware finally getting to see its use.

I thought I had a piece of maple saved for this, but I think I turned it into a wedding present. Not sure where this sample came from. It looks a bit like oak, but is very light. I don’t remember buying ash or white oak, but it has that kind of grain structure. Oh well, let’s get cutting. I ripped this piece in half and cut down a shorter piece to act as the front of the vise.

The hardware is a 3/4″ acme screw, a few nuts and a set of generic hand wheels that fit on the shafts. The hand wheels have set screws to keep them in place, so I ground flats on the threaded shafts to give them good purchase.

To hold this vice to my bench I cut down the sides to make it easier for clamps to get in there and hold. That will let me set this up on my bench at any spot that is convenient.

The shaft slides through the front and the back half of the vise. To have it clamp I will need to fix the nuts somehow. I took the spare cutoff from the front vise and set the nuts in to capture them. I traced the nut edges, used a forstner bit for the center area, and then chopped the rest with a chisel.

With the nut blocks screwed on, I covered everything in boiled linseed oil and then moved on to installing leather. Hide glue makes an excellent glue for leather to wood so I rough cut pieces, smeared on a thin layer of hide glue, then clamped the assembly hard to make sure the pieces dried flat.

Once the glue was set I trimmed the spare leather and leveled the top. It fits well across the end of my bench and is wide enough to hold an 18 inch board. That should keep me covered. When not in use, it can go on a shelf and be out of the way.

Drawing Bows

I have been using a lot more curves in my work and have been reaching for various devices to help draw those curves. I made a small drawing bow out of maple a while back and I use it pretty often. Lee Valley sent out an advertisement in one of their emails about a fiberglass drawing bow. They were good looking tools, but quite expensive. I thought I could do the same for cheaper.

I started with some fiberglass reinforced plastic. This can go by various names. G10, FR4, Garolite and others. A 1″ wide, 1/8″ thick, 4 foot long piece was 6 bucks from McMaster-Carr. Their shipping is aggressive and expensive, but if you buy a decent pile of stuff, it still comes out to be very affordable. I bought 3 of them.

Lee Valley uses nylon webbing to hold the shape. I had some, but it was 1″ wide also. Something narrower would be nice. I didn’t want to buy anything else, and I didn’t have a good way to attach the webbing to the G10. I went with paracord instead. Not exactly fancy, but it got the job done and I have scads of the stuff around. I drilled a hole and relieved the edge to make sure the paracord stays in place.

The paracord is really slippery and doesn’t like to hold well with typical adjustable knots like the taught line hitch. I printed this little 3 hole tensioner to help with adjusting the bow. Later ones I just used a single hole. It seems to hold well and allows for faster adjustment.

In all I made a 4, 3, and 2 foot drawing bow. This stuff is stiff enough you wouldn’t want to go much shorter, it just doesn’t offer enough curvature. The smallest bow could go tighter if you wanted to, but not a ton. I will need to find thinner or more flexible material if I want to do really tight curves. These make nice subtle shapes and will probably last a lifetime. Go make some!