Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Webber Charcoal Grill Rescue

I recently moved to Texas from Illinois, leaving my trusty grill behind.  Living in the land of BBQ without a grill, I pined to grill meat over burning wood.

As luck would have it, my brother's fiancee (sister-in-law-to-be?) was discarding a weathered 22 1/2" Webber charcoal grill she was unhappy with.  I leapt at the chance to restore an iconic, made in Palatine, IL, mid-century design, charcoal grill.

Step 1: Disassembly
The one-touch cleaning assembly had rusted solid and was removed with a Dremel and cut-off wheel.
The wood handles had weathered poorly and were dangerously loose, so everything was taken apart for cleaning and painting.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

12 Things Destroyed Whilst Remodeling My House

  1. Wall, due to hammering & pry bar
  2. Ugly tile counter top, due to awesome power of the almighty team of sawzall & pry bar
  3. Ugly tile back splash, due to pry bar
  4. Huge and unwieldly kitchen island, due to screw driver-ing & pry bar
  5. Ugliest little closet in Texas, due to pry bar
  6. Filthiest pantry in Texas, due to pry bar
  7. (borrowed) Palm Sander, due to concrete dust
  8. Vacuum cleaner, due to concrete dust (which it turns out is a real pain in the *** to clean up)
  9. (borrowed) Dremel tool, due to being a piece of worthless ****
  10. Reciprocating saw blades (3), due to concrete
  11. Masonry bit, due to concrete (seriously? that's what you're designed for, your only job is to drill through concrete)
  12. Screw extraction bits, due to screw (again, that's your ONLY JOB)
The hero so far is the pry bar. I love that thing.

And the villain? Clearly concrete and concrete dust. The concrete counter top looks amazing now, but it's a tool killer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

House Rehab 2: Demolition

Ahh, demolition, just saying that out loud makes my inner 10-year-old smile.

We needed to remove:

  • tile counter top
  • tile back splash
  • breakfast bar
  • half wall
  • kitchen sink + plumbing
  • kitchen cabinets
  • granite counter top
  • kitchen island
  • carpets
  • vinyl tile

Disassembling the island

More island disassembly

Wall demolition

Sawzall + counter top = no more counter top

Cabinets with doors removed, ready for the sink to come out

Cabinets, free from counter top and plumbing

Ready for large item pickup

One closet, free from carpet

Friday, August 15, 2014

New House Rehab 1: The Planning

We just purchased a new house in the south side of San Antonio, built in 1925 it has gorgeous bones, but that's been muddled by years of deferred maintenance and ...interesting... remodeling choices.

Original kitchen design

Original kitchen design - note the island, and bar mounted on half wall
Black paint over longleaf pine floors? A tragedy!

The way timing worked was this:
A two week period where the previous owners rented the property from us while they moved out
Followed by a two week period for us to do work on the interior of the house before our furniture arrives (and we get kicked out of our temporary housing situation)

Which translates into a two week planning period followed by a two week work-our-rears-off period, followed by move into the house.

Planning Stage
Of all the things we want to eventually do to this house, we prioritized these three projects to be done in our two weeks of work:

  1. The (largely original) wood floors need to be refinished, if only to remove the black paint on the main living areas.
  2. The kitchen needs to be reorganized and rebuilt.
  3. The master bedroom needs to be inhabitable
Given our time frame and the extent of the damage to the floors, we decided to pay for professionals to take care of them for us.

After some reading and pricing out our options we decided that in the kitchen, we will remove:
  • Tile counter top
  • Tile back splash
  • Breakfast bar
  • Lights that used to illuminate the breakfast bar
  • Half wall supporting the breakfast bar
  • Kitchen cabinets
  • Kitchen sink
  • Kitchen island

We will install:
  • Refurbished cabinets (in a straight line instead of L-shaped)
  • A concrete countertop
  • White paint on the cabinets
  • A dishwasher (in the new dishwasher -sized mounting spot we will create)
  • A new undermount-style stainless steel sink and chrome faucet
  • Paint the walls and trim
  • New appliances (white) - the house came with exactly zero appliances.
Master bedroom: mostly just cleanup and repainting. Perhaps new doors on the closet (though we're thinking of eventually removing the closet altogether to create room for the (currently cramped) bathroom.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

V carving with a Dremel 125 bit

a Dremel 125 bit
I recently purchased and assembled a Shapeoko 2 kit from Inventables and my wife asked me to help her etch text into a plaque for her boss as a going away present.  Well, the easiest way to do text is V-carving, and V-carving requires V-bits.

Here's the problem: traditional V-bits all have 1/4" shafts which don't fit into the rotary tool (a Chinese made Dremel knock-off) that comes standard in the Shapeoko 2 kit.

I was in my local big box hardware store and happened to see a cone-shaped carving bit, the Dremel 125.  You get two in a package for $9.50, that's about a third of the cost of a traditional V-bit, so maybe this lets us do V-carving on the cheap!

The first thing to do is take some measurements. I found the largest diameter of the bit is 0.24" and the height of the cone is 0.38" which means it's a cone with an opening angle of 35.05 degrees.

I put that angle into F-Carve, and viola! V-carving on the cheap. You can see results after the jump:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Electric Zeppelin Racing League

 I was recently honored with a commission from Redmoon theater to design a kit for kids to assemble at their annual Skelebration Children's Halloween party.

What we came up with is the Electric Zeppelin Racing League.

The goal is to have (small) people compete in electric zeppelin races - electric powered vehicles that fly across the room suspended by a wire.

The inspiration for this project is the BSA's Space Derby and the Power Racing Series. We wanted higher speed, longer distances, so electric powered zeppelins were born!
Lights on
The constraints for this project were:
  • <$20 retail price for the kits
  • No soldering
  • Target age: 6-12 years old
  • Can be assembled in an hour

Included in the current kits are:
  • 3.7V Motor
  • propeller (color varies)
  • 2xAA battery holder with switch
  • One LED (color varies: red, blue, green, yellow, white)
  • Three plastic cable ties
  • Two paper clips
  • 6" x 6" Coroplast sheet
  • Three flier templates (templates vary: zeppelin, pony, dragon, car, butterfly, bird)
  • Instruction sheet
Classroom packs:
  • Ten kits (contents listed above)
  • One reel of 100 yards of 12lb test fishing line 
  • Teacher's resource sheet
We are currently beta-testing the kits with Girls Inc. and GeekBus.

Pre-order single kits and classroom packs (shipping at the end of July):

Single Kit ($14.99 - free shipping to the USA, $19.99 free shipping worldwide)
Shipping to:

Classroom 10-Pack ($119.99 - free shipping to the USA, $129.99 free shipping worldwide)
Shipping to:

Prototype #1

Monday, February 10, 2014

Challenge: Zero to Prototype in 72 Hours

The @CraftsMANhammer tweeting hammer prototype

I have a new personal challenge: 

I'm going to do four 72-hour prototype building sprints on four different projects in the next four weeks and write about the results here.

Where this idea came from:

While at a party on a recent Saturday night, I received an email from a potential client, an ad agency. They are about to pitch for the business of a major tool manufacturer, am I available to make a hammer that is motion sensitive and sends out tweets? Oh, and can I deliver it by Wednesday?

My response was 1) yes, I'm available, 2) wait, do you mean THIS Wednesday, three days from now?

By the time my estimates were approved and I was given the green light to start work (Sunday afternoon), I had almost exactly 72 hours to deliver a prototype.