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.