Sunday, August 30, 2020

The Necessary Evil - Shop Maintenance

Changing the saw blade

Last week I was ripping some stringers from a pallet for a new project that I was working on when my table saw made a bit of a clunk and shot out a couple of sparks - it would appear that I had forgotten to remove a nail from the stringer before I started cutting.

Obviously, the saw blade didn't really like that too much and proceeded to tell me this by making an absolute mess of the cut on the next board that I ripped.

Effectively I wrecked the blade and it needed to be replaced.

Changing a saw blade on a table saw is a fairly straight forward affair of loosening the nut that attached the blade to the spindle of the table saw's motor, except for a slight twist.

If you tried to just take a wrench to the nut, you will quickly find that the blade will just spin freely as you turn the nut. No matter how dull the blade is, it is still not a good idea to have something like that near fingers that are in close proximity, nor can you just hold onto the blade with one hand while wrenching with the other - a sure-fire way to get a nasty cut.

To do it properly, you need to wedge in a piece of scrap wood between the blade and the body of the table saw.  The blade digs into the wood, and not your hand as you loosen the nut.

Switching saw blades is just another part of regular shop maintenance,  that thing you need to do from time to time to ensure that your fingers stay attached and your projects look decent.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

"Instant Pot" Autopsy

One Pressure Cooker Ready for Inspection

With everyone staying home more due to the situation that has been happening in the world this year, there seems to be a bit of an explosion of people letting their inner chef out and trying their hand at making home-cooked meals.

This really became apparent when I noticed a definite shortage in the grocery stores on things like flour and yeast. There certainly seems like there is a lot of bread being baked recently.

Another thing that I have noticed, actually long before the pandemic hit, that that there has been a renewed interest in making meals with pressure cookers.

Unlike the pressure cookers of my Grandmother's time, which resembled something that would have been more at home in a science laboratory, the pressure cookers of today look downright sleek and high-tech with custom programs built-in for handling almost anything you would which to make.

Pressure cooking is the process of cooking food at high pressure, employing water, or a water-based cooking liquid. High-pressure limits boiling, and permits cooking temperatures well above 100 °C to be reached, meaning that foods cook much faster with pressure cooking than with other methods

The most common pressure cooker being sold these days is the "Instant Pot" but there are a lot of other cookers on the market that function in exactly the same way.

A few years ago I bought a no-name pressure cooker mainly to do some canning, but recently I also started to use it to make some nice and easy one-pot meals.

Recently I was cleaning the cooker when the relief valve (which is a safety device that is used to release pressure if the internal pressure of the cooker gets too high) fell out of the lid and fell down the drain in my sink.

This meant that my pressure cooker now had a small hole in the top of its lid - not an ideal situation for maintaining pressure.

As it seems to be the case in our disposable world today, a quick search online for replacement parts made it quite clear that it was more cost-effective to buy a new cooker than repair the old one.

After a quick trip to my local store, I was able to start cooking again, but in the meantime, I still had this old cooker.

Perhaps a little dissection was in order - just to see what secrets it held - and maybe to see if we can find some goodies too for future projects.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Digitizing 35mm Slides with a Smart Phone

Build your own slide converter rig

Recently I got into a bit of a nostalgia kick when I found a box of old 35mm film slides at my parent's house a few weeks ago. 

Finding those slides brought back memories of sitting in a dark room, watching pictures of someone's recent trip someplace far away.  I can remember the click of the slide projector as it cycled through to the next slide, the smell of the hot bulb in the projector, and of course, watching the odd upside-down slide flash up on the screen. 

This was an experience that is now lost to time since we live in a streaming YouTube world. 

Millions of these slides now languish on the back of closets, forgotten. 

The really nice thing about 35mm slides was that they typically had a high-quality image, almost rivaling the high definition quality of the pictures that we can take on our smartphones today. 

There is a lot of history lock up in those slides, the problem is that without a projector of some sort, they remain locked inside their square cardboard sleeve. 

I developed a plan to rescue the slides that I had found by converting them into a digital format. You can purchase devices on Amazon that can convert slides for you, but again, my cheapness kicked in when I saw that even an inexpensive converter was around $150. 

Recently, I picked at an auction a lot of old slide viewers for a few dollars. The viewers were used to preview slides before you put them into a slide projector's carousel.

Most of the viewers had a small viewing window that had a small lightbulb inside to light up the slide. However, one particular viewer used the light from the room to illuminate the slide, and the slide was viewable as a large image. 

As an experiment, I tried to take a photo of a slide as it was seen in the viewer with my smartphone. I was actually quite pleased with the image quality that I got on the phone. 

So between this old slide viewer and my smartphone, I had the makings of a converter for my box of slides. 

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Building a Cheap Elliptical Trainer

Exercising the legs

Every Father's Day I always have the same issue, what do you get for a Dad that already has every conceivable tool and gizmo you can think of? (mind you, I have also noticed that my kids have a similar problem). 

Most years the situation was solved with the purchase of a gift card from his favorite tool emporium, but even that gets a bit stale after a couple of years, and you end up back at square one again. 

In the past couple of years, my Dad has started to have a few mobility issues which could be greatly helped with some regular exercise of his legs. 

A neighbor of theirs recently got an elliptical trainer for this exact same purpose and they claim that it made a world of difference for them. Grabbing onto this as the perfect gift for Dad, I did some online shopping for something similar. 

After quickly noticing the $500 - $1,000 price tag, I quickly had to do a bit of a rethink. While my father is certainly worth the cost of such a machine, I did have a bit of issue about paying that much for what was basically a fancy box with pedals sticking out of it. - effectively a fancy unicycle that doesn't go anywhere.

From what I could gather, the basic premise of the trainer is to provide a low impact way of giving the benefits of riding a bicycle, including providing a measure of pedaling resistance to build leg strength.

It was then it struck me that I already had the building blocks for building my own elliptical trainer out in the parts bin that is my shed.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Wooden Garden Tractor Update - Second Attempt at the Drive Train

Taking another crack at it

A few weeks back, my attempt to connect the rear wheels of my tractor to the engine ended in a complete failure. 

Going back to the drawing board I decided that trying to do a 90-degree twist in the drive belt was just not going to cut it. 

Unfortunately, this meant that I had to go with the more traditional route and have the engine drive to be more in line with the wheels, and avoid that 90-degree twist altogether.

The issue I had was that I still wanted to avoid having any moving belts as close to my limbs as possible.