Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Truck Storage Console Repair

Here's a fun project that combined 3D printing, auto repair, and wood work:
Replacement console cover for a '97 Ford Ranger pickup truck.


My truck has a broken center console cover. This was one of those small annoyances that made my daily life slightly more miserable than necessary: I didn't have an arm rest while driving and anything stored in the console tended to drift around the cabin. If I ever needed to raise the console for three people to sit, everything dumped out between the seats. I ended up tying it closed with a length of string, which would inevitably slip off at the worst moment, flipping the spring-loaded cover open.

Even used replacement parts for this thing are wildly expensive, so I decided to fabricate a replacement out of spare plywood and wood plus a 3D printed clip.

The idea of having a bit of wood trim in my super cheap pick up truck seems impossibly, hilariously luxe.

Fabrication 1: Wood

The top was easy enough - just trace and cut with a jigsaw, then route the upper edges with a 3/8" roundover bit.

The next bit was slightly harder - the hinge doesn't connect to the top with a 90 degree angle, so I cut an adapter from some spare 1 by 4 by matching the angle on the plastic to the table saw blade. The end result wasn't precisely the right angle, but it was close enough. I could have made the wooden adapter smaller, but I didn't want to risk splitting due to repeated stress and heat.

I dry-fit the pieces and screwed them together for a quick test, then disassembled everything so I could sand down to 200 grit and apply some pre-stain and three coats of polyacrylic. I chose polyacrylic instead of (more durable) polyurethane because pickup truck cabs are tiny and very hot, and polyacrylic releases fewer fumes than polyurethane.

Fabrication 2: 3D design and print

The final step was to 3D print a replacement clip to keep the lid closed. I don't know exactly what the original one looked like, but I made some guesses based on measurements of where it is supposed to go and some photos of replacement parts.  It took only four iterations of printing, making an adjustment, and reprinting before I was happy with the results. I definitely appreciated the openSCAD paradigm for making those measurement adjustments quick and painless.

Since this is such a dimensions-driven project, instead of firing up a GUI-based cad program, I decided to use this project as an excuse to learn a little more openSCAD syntax. So with this cheat sheet's help, and a few iterations with the 3D printer, I was able to make a cute little clip that screws into the lid of my console with about 19 lines of code.

Final assembly and testing.
I like the look of red plastic against light wood, and there's no way to hide the clip, so I chose to highlight it in red instead.

The end result works! I now have a pleasant place to rest my arm while driving, and when I need more seating, the contents of my console don't go everywhere!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Is your chair missing feet? I'd like to fix it for free.


New service: 3D printed replacement chair feet: bring me your broken or missing chair feet!

If you have a chair that needs replacement feet, drop me a line, perhaps I can help you keep your chair out of the landfill.


For the past two years, I have made and sold 3D printed replacement feet for the IKEA Gilbert chair. It has been a fun side project that allows me to prevent broken chairs from going into the trash heap.


I was recently contacted by a lovely person named Joy who saw that I sold chair feet for the IKEA Gilbert chair, and wondered if I could make replacement feet for her chairs, too?

My answer was yes, if your chair feet are easily 3D printable.

Which made me realize that perhaps I should actively look for additional chair feet that can be 3D printed, to expand my offerings.

So, if you have a chair with missing feet and I don't already make those chair feet, let me see if I can help!

Just like I did with the IKEA Gilbert chair feet, I'll both release the files so anyone with a 3D printer can make their own, and I'll sell feet so people who don't have access to a 3D printer can keep their chairs from becoming landfill.

Details of the deal:

  1. You contact me here.
  2. I'll get back to you via email and ask you to send me photos of your chair's feet, and some rough dimensions.
  3. If I think they'll work, I'll ask you to ship me one of your chair feet (or more, if your chair feet aren't all the same for some reason).
  4. After a week or so, I'll return your chair foot, plus the 3D printed feet you need (for free).
  5. I'll then post the files online (with the creative commons attribution, non commercial license) so anyone can make their own chair feet.
  6. I'll sell the feet on the website.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Glass frame screw caps for exterior house doors

The rear entry area of our home is very dark, so we decided that an easy way to add light was to replace our old, drafty, malfunctioning rear entry door with a modern door with a glass panel to allow more light.

Our first problem was that our rear door happens to be pretty small - 30 inches wide.
Most exterior doors are now 36 inches wide, so to get what we want, we'd have to special order at about three times the cost of the doors in stock at our local stores.  My partner in crime had the brilliant idea of searching craigslist for 60 inch wide double entry doors, since that would give us a door with exactly the width we want (and an extra door to do something with?).  With a little patience, we located a set of used wooden entry doors, so we took our new door home to strip off paint, fill in holes, and generally clean everything up.
Missing screw caps in the glass frame

Second problem: the screw caps were missing from the frame around the glass in the door.
I first went to Lowe's to ask if they had those caps and was told that no, no ones sells them, they come with new doors, and nowhere else. I searched the internet and found that the guys at Lowes were right, those caps can't be purchased!
So, I took some careful measurements, 3D printed some screw caps in white ABS, popped them in place with a mallet, and they look great!

gently tapping in with a mallet

18 new screw caps
Caps in place

Monday, June 15, 2015

Archery Bow Square

I've recently begun learning archery.

When you receive your first bow, one of the first things you need to do is set it up by adjusting the brace height, and add a nock point to your string.  I'm not going to explain here how to do those things as I'm just a rank beginner.  To accomplish those tasks yourself, you'll need a tool called a Bow Square, it lets you both measure the brace height and find the proper placement for your nock point.

These aren't expensive tools, you can find aluminum bow squares for as little as $15 online, but designing and cutting my own was a fun project, and was a good excuse to further acquaint myself with 10BitWorks' new 80Watt Rabbit Laser engraver.

I designed in Inkscape, exported to DXF and used LaserCut 5.2 to communicate the actual cuts to the machine.

Monday, January 5, 2015

How 3D printing saves time and money

It's been close to a year and a half since I purchased my current 3D printer (it cost about $1200 at the time, but you can pick one up for about $950 today), and I've lost track of how many times over it has paid for itself, but here's a list of some ways my printer has paid for itself around the house:
Ceiling fan with 3D printed globe retainer clips

Monday, November 3, 2014

How to redesign a kitchen pantry

We're rehabilitating our new home. Here's how we redesigned our kitchen pantry.
Before: dirty and unusable, lots of wasted space.

Problem 1. The shelves were few (3) and too deep (24 and 36 inch)

In a situation like a pantry, instead of a small number of deep shelves, you want many shallow shelves to reduce situations where one object hides behind another.
The deep shelves also cause dark shadows at the back of the pantry, making it even less usable.
To fix this situation, we'll increase the number of shelves from 3 to 5 and reduce the depth from 24 and 36 inches to 12 inches.
To ensure that we use our available storage space efficiently, we're creating L-shaped shelves which increases the linear shelf space by more than 50%.

Problem 2. The interior was coated with flat paint. 

Anyplace where you want clean or disinfected, you need to use a semgloss or high gloss paint.  Unlike flat paint, glossy surface coatings are water resistant, cleanable and resist sticky substances (like food spills).  Additionally, flat paint soaks up light, making the pantry seem dark and dingy, not attributes I want where we store our food.
To maximize visibility and cleanliness, we used a low-voc white semigloss paint.

Problem 3. Shelves were held up with 2x4s.

Using a 2x4 in your food pantry to hold a shelf is not only overkill, it looks clunky, wastes space, and when working on a closet for a few hours, I'd rather not deal with material that bulky or heavy. We decided to go with pre-primed 1x2 for the long shelves along the rear of the closet and twin-track standards for the short shelves along the right side.

Design goals:

  • Maximize storage space without making things hard to see or reach
  • Solid shelves instead of wire shelves - wire shelves are bad for small objects and useless during spills
  • Sometimes food gets messy: make everything easy to clean
  • As always, re-use as much material as possible

Let's get started!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Shapeoko+Arduino+Raspberry Pi+Easel

Over at the Easel beta tester's mailing list we started talking about running a shapeoko on odd hardware, and I mentioned that I run mine on Raspberry Pi. The developers (Chris B) chimed in to ask if Easel worked on Raspian. Well, after a bit of back and forth, I came up with this workflow to use Easel on Raspberry Pi.

A quick spoiler: Easel does not yet have a local sender that works on Linux, so we'll be using a separate piece of software for sending the GCode to the Shapeoko.

Fair warning: this post gets slightly technical.

Here's the workflow I came up with: