Sunday, March 22, 2020

Building an Aquarium Stand - Step 3: Building the Body

We focus on building the body of the aquarium stand

In my last post, I had just completed building the top of the aquarium stand.

One of the key items that I needed to figure out for the stand was the overall dimensions of the aquarium that I would be using, the reason for that is that it dictated the overall dimensions for the top of the aquarium stand, which in turn determined the size of the body and base of the stand.

So with the top sorted out, I started working my way down, making next item on the agenda building the body of the aquarium stand,

The design of the stand was that the body of it was going to be basically a large box with some internal storage in order to allow for stashing fish food and other supplies. The box will also need to be built heavily enough to support the weight of the aquarium when it's full of water (which could weigh over 100 pounds).

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Building an Aquarium Stand - Step 2: Building the Top

Ready to start the build

In my last post, I sketched out a bit of a design for an aquarium stand that I wanted to hold a tank to house George, our tame Sunfish.

With my plan of attack determined, it was finally time to head into the shop and start building.

As I previously mentioned, I designed the aquarium stand to be constructed in three distinct parts (top, body, and bottom).

Since the stand will be custom-built for the aquarium, the first logical step would be to start from the top.

The first step in the process was to find out the footprint of the tank.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Building an Aquarium Stand - Step 1: Determining a Design

For several years, I've always enjoyed doing a little fishing during the warmer months.

I find fishing to be almost a zen-like experience.

Sitting quietly in a boat, watching the water ripple around me, focussing my senses on a thin monofilament line, trying to sense a bite. I often find the experience quite relaxing and even if I don't catch anything, I always come home rejuvenated. 

While what I may call relaxing, others in my house would call it boring, so my fishing experiences have more or less been done solo. So it was much to my surprise that my son wanted to try his hand at a fishing derby that I usually take part in during the fall.

I was even more surprised when he actually enjoyed it enough that he wanted to do a couple more fishing excursions before the snow started to fall.

Typically we fish for Smallmouth Bass or Perch, so when during our last trip of the season my son caught a rather small Sunfish, I was fully expecting him to let the little guy go and keep fishing for bigger quarry.

Instead, he slipped the fish into the minnow bucket and we ended up taking him home with us.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Web Visitor Counter Revisited - Building a Case for the Counter

Web counter in its new enclosure

A few months back I published a series of posts around the construction of an electronic counter that would provide me with a constant display of the web traffic to this website. 

The counter has been working away for a number of months now with no issues or complaints, well maybe one complaint,,, 

While the counter does work beautifully, it is also just a lump of wires and electronic components that's been sitting on my desk in an unsightly mass. Additionally, the wires have recently become an attractive plaything for some of the furrier members of the household.

Obviously, if I wished to have my new toy to continue to function, I needed to do something.   

In my last post, I did some experimenting with the Cricut Maker, a new tool that we recently got. One of the reasons that I was intrigued by the Maker was that it was capable of making very accurate cuts in thin sheets of plywood. 

After some initial experiments with the Maker, I was ready to try my first project - a proper enclosure for my web counter.  

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Using a Cricut Maker as a Poor Man's "Laser Cutter"

Cricut Maker

For the last couple of years, my spouse and I usually buy a large gift to each other for Christmas. 

Usually, these gifts entail some sort of high tech toy like a large screen TV.  The idea was that we would pool the gift budget and buy a really nice gift - of course, it had to be something we would both like (so alas, that 3-D printer that I always wanted will need to wait).

When Christmas came around again this past year, the usual question came up - what did we want to buy each other this year?  Earlier that year my wife had started to get into card making and had been busily stocking her own workspace with all the various tools and supplies that she needed for this new adventure. 

During a tool shopping expedition, she came across a new machine that was just launched by Cricut called the Maker. My wife has had some experience with Cricut in the past, but the machines that she had used were only made to only cut card stock or paper. Additionally, the old Cricuts used proprietary cartridges that cut out pre-programmed shapes and did not give you the option of creating your own designs. 

The Cricut Maker was a vast departure from the old Cricut's. The Maker connected to your computer or smartphone and ran off of a web-based interface. Gone were the stock shapes and letters and in their place was an online community where you could download pre-built projects or you could create your own designs using a tool that was very familiar to the Easel tool that I use for my CNC router. 

The Maker also came with a variety of cutting, engraving and marker heads that allowed one to be able to cut into everything from paper all the way up to 1/32 inch plywood. 

When my wife mentioned that she would like this magical tool to me, I was immediately on board. 

And so, Christmas morning brought a new toy under the tree for me to try out - albeit I did need to share it ☺

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Building a Simple Recliner Platform

Sturdy yet attractive

I'm probably within that demographic that could be referred to as the "sandwich" generation where I have young adult children that we are helping to get started in the world, but at the same time, I also have parents that are starting to get a bit older.

While my parents are still active and very capable in doing their own thing, they are also starting to find doing certain things are not as easy as they once were (to be honest, I am getting the same way - after redoing a floor in my house a few months ago, my knees were not very happy with me for a few weeks).

Recently my father mentioned that he was having a pretty tough time getting out of his favorite reclining chair. After some discussion, we figured that if the chair was maybe a couple of inches higher he could get up much more easily.

Now there are chairs out there that have lifting mechanisms that help you get out of the chair, but why spend over a thousand dollars on that sort of thing when there's a perfectly good chair sitting in the living room?

After some discussion, we figured that some sort of platform for the chair to sit on would fit the bill. So, before I left the workshop for the day, we decided that my father would get the measurements for the base of the chair and I would get going with the construction when I returned.

Upon my return the next day, I did get the measurements but was also informed by my parents that they had gone ahead and built their own platform.

My family comes from traditional farming stock where the main focus is function. Aesthetics is very low on the priority list.  When I inspected their handy work, it was indeed a very sturdy and highly functional platform, but from a design point of view, I suppose you could charitably define it as  "rustic".

I had to be a bit careful in how I critiqued their handiwork, but eventually, they liked the suggestion that I could try and clean up their creation a little.

So I grabbed their platform and headed back to the shop

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The Online Store is Open - Come Inside!

Today I want to try something a bit new - another experiment if you will. 

As I mentioned back then, while I pretty much do this because I get a great deal of enjoyment doing what I'm doing, I really want feedback on the output of my shop - the way I see it, you can't really learn and grow without constructive feedback. 

For the time being, I was literally getting that feedback from my front lawn where I had put a selection of wares for sale. I have found this approach to be very helpful for me since I got to hear a first-hand assessment of my creations and from there I get the opportunity to make small improvements and great ideas for new projects. 

The downside with this sort of arrangement is that it is very seasonal - there just isn't the market for garden ornaments when the snow is a foot deep outside. 

I'm not really keen on the idea of building things and having to wait half the year to get that much-needed feedback. So with that, I've decided to make the leap from the front lawn to the virtual world. 

So on that note, I would like to announce the launch of my new Etsy Store - Cedar Patch Crafts. 

I do need to address the name of the store. 

While I could have simply gone with something around the Small Workshop theme, the store will not only be a place for me to sell my goodies but other members of my family may also get into the act by selling their own creations. So the shop will not be just for me. 

Cedar Patch is a nod to the new shop location that I moved to this past summer - a farm that has a fairly sizable patch of cedar trees situated on it.

The focus of the shop will be small wood focused items drawing heavily on the supply of pallets that I've accumulated. The products on sale will have construction articles on this site - so you will have a behind the scenes look at how the things in the shop are made.

Also starting today, there will be a link at the top of the homepage of this site that will give you a direct link to the items on sale. 

So - to borrow a wee bit from that Dolly Parton song - The Online Store is Open - Come Inside!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Keurig Coffee Maker Autopsy

Autopsy of a deceased Keurig machine

After about 10 years of faithful service, my Keurig coffee maker finally expired from old age.  

Normally this would be a period of great sorrow since that meant that I was no longer able to get the life-sustaining elixir that I disparately needed.  

The dearly departed

Thankfully machine died just in time for Christmas and I welcomed a new addition to the family just in time since I was just on the cusp of experiencing caffeine withdrawal.

With my new machine now performing its life-saving duties, the question became what to do with my old Keurig? 

If you have been a fairly regular reader, you should be aware that I always like to salvage things that would otherwise end up as e-waste,  So I wanted to see what I could do to have my old Keurig live on in a future project. 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Making Drink Coasters from Scrap Wood

From scrap wood to beautiful coasters

I was looking for something that I could build to take advantage of the laser engraver that I had recently purchased. I really wanted to find an excuse to etch some really nice detailed images as part of some sort of wood project.

The laser engraver really gives me the ability to really make some very elegant looking items, but the question was what to make...

A few weekends ago I had a chance to check out a couple of craft shows in my area along with my significant other. I don't really go to these shows to really buy anything, but rather they are basically scouting missions for me to find ideas for potential projects.

At the shows, I did find a lot of different things on sale that utilized laser engraving, but alas a lot of the items for sale were fairly large, far larger than anything my engraver could tackle.

However, I did see a lot of smaller items, like Christmas ornaments and drink coasters that were laser engraved.

Intrigued by what I saw, I remembered that I had a rather large assortment of small wood scraps leftover from other projects lurking in my scrap box. A good majority of those pieces included scraps of Eastern red cedar and maple which have really attractive wood grain patterns and colors.

Once I got back home and back into the shop I got right to it.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Searching for High Altitude Balloons

With a quick trip to the hardware store, I started to see balloons

A little while back I posted about my exploration in tracking gliders that were soaring around my area with a software-defined radio and some open-sourced software.

As I had mentioned, it all started with a mysterious phone last summer. Later that fall, I got yet another call from my new glider friend, wondering, since the gliding season was over for the year, would I be interested in tracking high altitude balloons instead.

It turns out that there is a bit of an enthusiast community out there that track and if possible, recover high altitude balloon payloads. A good majority of these balloons are the good old weather balloon that is still very much in use in our high tech world today since they can easily ride along the jetstream, but the military also use balloons in preparation for artillery exercises and there is also an active amateur radio community that use balloons to transmit radio traffic.

The central repository of all high altitude balloon knowledge can be found at The site includes information on how to set up a tracking station using a software-defined radio dongle - similar to the one I used for tracking gliders.

Setting up a receiving station is fairly well documented at the site, so I won't really focus on how to do that since I will leave that to the experts at Habhub to explain. But I did find details a little skimpy on what sort of antenna to use.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder for $5

Birds enjoying the feeder

Last winter I set up a bird feeder for my Grandmother so that she could watch the birds from her window.

She has enjoyed feeding and watching the birds for as long as I can remember, but in recent years she hadn't really been able to look after the bird feeders herself, so she was very happy to see that I was will to pick up the mantle and continue feeding the birds on her behalf. 

One thing that we weren't really happy about was during this past winter, the squirrels also discovered that the bird feeders were an easy way to get a free meal. 

While I cannot blame them for raiding my feeders - they need to eat too - they were also chasing away the birds, effectively defeating the purpose of the feeders. 

While I do plan on finding a more mutually agreeable (between us and the squirrels) way to feed the squirrels, my main objective was to deter the squirrels from literally stealing the food from the birds' mouths. 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

A New Year Begins

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to pause and take stock of things.

When I started this site back in the late summer of 2017, I figure that the site would be basically a repository of all the various projects that I had attempted - a virtual notebook for me to jot down how I built something in the off chance I needed to build it again at some point in the future. I figured a website would be a better method to capture things than simply writing it down in some notebook that would eventually get lost in the pile of junk that usually I have sitting around my desk.

At the same time, if folks such as yourself find my ramblings informative and/or entertaining, well, that is just icing on the cake for me - and really it makes me quite happy to pass my experience along.