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:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Make a Set of Progressive Locks

First off, a definition: a set of progressive locks is a set of locks with an increasing number of pins. They are a great way to gain confidence and learn to pick locks. A full set typically consists of five locks with 1 pin, 2 pins, 3 pins, 4 pins, and 5 pins, respectively.  

The 1 pin lock can be opened with just a stern look, but the 5 pin lock will take a bit of effort, and the ones in between... well, you get the idea.

Over this past weekend, we changed the locks in our new house and I was faced with discarding 5 locks. Hmmm... 5 locks... 5 pins in a lock... waitaminute, let's make a set of progressive locks!

Here's how to turn Kwikset locks into progressives:

  • Small flat head screwdriver for prying
  • Tweezers
  • Needle nose pliers
  • A set of lock picks (for testing!)
  • A bunch of spare locks that you own

1. Take off the outer ring and discard.

Monday, October 13, 2014

3D Printing Upgraded Chair Feet

Earlier, I designed and printed some replacement feet for my Ikea Gilbert chairs (see that earlier project here).

We recently moved to a new home and we have gorgeous pine wood floors from 1925, and we obviously don't want to scratch them up with chair feet, so I tried putting stick-on felt pads to the chair feet, but they slid off with use, leaving scratches AND sticky messes on our floors.

So, I pulled up my old design files and came up with a chair foot that is:

  • slightly larger diameter (~25mm versus ~19mm), to distribute weight over a larger area
  • has a lip on the bottom to prevent the felt pads from slipping off
  • still compatible with IKEA Gilbert chairs

New feet shown with and without the felt pads
You can download the file and print it yourself I recommend black ABS plastic, 30% infill, and orient the feet with the smaller diameter facing down.

If you don't have a 3D printer handy, I've set up a store for my replacement chair feet over here (I sell them with the appropriately sized felt pads included).

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mini Project: Headphone Modification

I recently acquired a pair of Sony MDR-ZX100 headphones as a door prize at a conference. When I took them home, I decided that I really like their rotating earcup design and I was surprised to discover that their sound is noticeably better than my ancient, beat up Sony MDR-V150 headphones. However, I have two complaints with the ZX100's:
  1. The cord. It's too short (1 meter vs 2 meters), feels cheap and plasticky, and has a 90 degree plug. In short, I want my old cord installed on my new headphones.
  2. For some unfathomable reason, Sony has added large plastic nubs to the ZX100 headphones on the surface of the drivers. They can easily be felt through the ear pads. In my testing, I found that these nubs create pressure, fatigue, and even pain after wearing them for a while. I need headphones I can wear all day long - these nubs are unacceptable!
My old headphones are falling apart, but the cord is in great shape. Instead of creating my own cord (a project in itself), I'll use my old headphone cord to replace the cruddy cord on the MRD-ZX100's. A little disassembly and soldering does the trick. Just be careful to not switch right and left, or reverse the polarity on the drivers. Since I replaced a Sony cable with another Sony cable, the color scheme and wiring was the same, which made soldering easier.
Disassembling the ZX100 headphones

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.