Sunday, December 14, 2014

Time for a Holiday Gift Guide.

Here are some last minute ideas for gifts in case you have just remembered that Christmas and Chanukah are coming up. Basically this is just me telling you what I’ve bought in the last year.

I’m going to start with a couple of great gifts for the people you hate that also have kids. The Korg Monotron Duoand Korg Monotron Delay synthesizers. While in the hands of a trained musician they can produce pleasing tones, in the hands of a child they produce WMD class annoying noises. The Delay has the added benefit of feedback so that the device can continue making noises until the battery runs out. Tons of fun especially if you run the Duo through the Delay. And great for the spacey hippie on your list as well. If you’re too cheap to buy these little synths but want to make annoying noises using the PC, I think that using VST host and some free VST synth plugins is a great alternative.

Another (terrible) gift for children is a javelin. This summer I purchased a used Viking Javelinat the OSU surplus sale. Everyone needs to experience the awesome primal feeling of holding a spear, unlocking the inner centurion in all of us. How delightful that they make children’s javelins then, perfect for the poor child whose parents won’t let them play with toy guns but do encourage sporting activities. Like boar hunting.

Back to music…I bought the synthesizers above because I started recording “music” as a hobby. I use Audacity to record and edit tracks and use a Behringer 302USB USB Mixer to get the various instruments (guitar, bass, keyboards, microphone) into the computer. It works well and doubles as a great headphone amplifier.

After making music you can relax and listen to it in a Mexican hammock. We bought one for the back porch and Felice falls asleep in it a lot when I’m talking.

You probably need batteries. I’ve been having good luck with the Tenergy Low Self Discharge NiMH batteries that Amazon offers. The 9V batteries are especially handy and not that much more expensive than alkaline 9V batteries. Great if you have a lot of 9V powered electronic meters or guitar effects pedals. The best part is that they lose their charge much slower than regular rechargeable batteries do.

I put a Crucial M550 512GB SSD in my workstation last year. I think that few PC users wouldn’t like getting one or the even less expensive MX100 model. Once you get used to instant disk access it’s hard to go back to spinning drives. 

I also bought some stainless steel chopsticks for the family. They take some getting used to but I like how durable they are. Plus you can annoy people by remarking about how sustainable they are when compared to disposable wood chopsticks.

Friday, December 05, 2014

New Shop Building.

I’ve been remiss in posting pictures of our new shop building construction. It will allow us to move all of our work out of the house and gain us an extra room as well as reclaiming other bits of space. Construction by Pacific Timbercraft. Nathan of Pacific Timbercraft just bought the house across the road from us, so it’s a pretty easy commute for him. The shop will be 24’ x 36’. We wanted something enjoyable to work in with windows and well insulated for comfort. We broke ground on October 9th… My reaction to the first bills.shop9801 Framing…henry1stdremel To give an idea of the timeline, here’s Henry using a Dremel to carve a pumpkin the day before Halloween.shop1001 Trusses.shop1003 Bracing and such.shop11071401 Roof sheathing.DSC05442 Insulation for under the slab. We didn’t go with in floor radiant heat but this will prevent the slab from acting as a heat sink. Note the 2x6 walls.shopslab01 Concrete.over1 Paper up, roof shingled, overhang for the door.over2 Nathan really wishes he could timber frame everything.over3 Boards for the siding.henry12 Henry’s birthday last weekend.shoppp1 Interior wall splitting it up into two zones, one for relatively clean and one for relatively dirty.shoppp02 Siding on the west side.shop12051401Siding working its way around today. Probably another month of work but we’re getting there. It’s expensive but it was time to expand our space. The kids aren’t getting any smaller nor are we getting younger. I hope it will allow us to produce more jewelry with greater ease. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Again With The Composting?

Our old compost bin exploded this summer (plastic does that) so I was told to make a new one from a garbage can. The best site I’ve found is the Cornell recycling site:
Basically it’s a garbage can, but you add holes (or remove non-holes).
DSC05445 A Garbage can, galvanized steel.DSC05446 DSC05451 A bunch of holes drill with a cordless drill and a Irwin Unibit. The Unibit makes drilling thin sheet metal easy.DSC05454 You do get nasty burrs on the inside.DSC05455 But then you drill slightly larger from the inside and the hole ends up being clean.DSC05456 DSC05458 DSC05459

Pretty exciting!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Seattle Tilth Worm Bin

I volunteered to make a worm bin for Max’s 4th grade class. The teacher gave me a plan from the Seattle Tilth (PDF) and I followed it (with a few departures) using scrap wood, hoarded hardware and a sheet of plywood graciously donated by Spaeth Heritage House Hardware in Philomath. The only casualty was my poor staple gun which died trying to tack hardware cloth to the underside. It will not be mourned or missed.worm1 worm2 worm3 worm4

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Terrible Compass

DSC05174It’s back to school time and Henry needed a protractor and compass for 6th grade. Felice went to K-Mart and bought a Westcott Two Piece Math Tool Set. It was extremely inexpensive. For some reason the K-Mart page has a weird typo, calling it a “Westcott Clauss Math Set Protractor and Compass”.Even weirder, the combo is not listed on the Westcott website, as far as I can see. Unfortunately the compass is an utter piece of garbage. The video below shows the problem…  

Yes, the pencil clamp is defective. Maybe it is only defective on this one compass, however if you look at the amazon reviews for the compass (not as part of the set), there are a ton of negative reviews.

DSC05189It doesn’t look that bad…DSC05188 Oh, look at how the graduations are already rubbing off.DSC05187 I guess it would be harder to stab someone with it than the old needle pointed ones.DSC05176The clamp mechanism.DSC05178The protrusions on the lever push against the ears on the pencil clamp, locking the pencil in place. At least it does in an alternate universe.DSC05182Without the pencil in place. You can see that the clamping action is slight. The pencil is .287” in diameter (major diameter of the hexagon) and when empty the bore of the pencil clamp, with lever engaged, is .286”. This is clearly not enough adjustment.DSC05177It’s flimsy too.DSC05184I added successive strips of paper between the lever and the clamp.DSC05186Ultimately .020” thickness of paper, on both sides of the clamp (so .040” total) resulted in a firm clamping action around the pencil.

What irritates me is that it shouldn’t be hard to make a compass that works for the same or slightly higher price. I wonder how many children are foiled in their geometric endeavours by such a shoddily made instrument.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Channel Master 6520 AM Radio

DSCF3052Picked this up at a yard sale last weekend, for $5.00 (half off…)DSCF3055DSCF3057 DSCF3058 DSCF3059 DSCF3060 DSCF3061 This is the only really exciting thing, the battery compartment.DSCF3065 Batteries are held in a tube for easy handling.DSCF3085 Compartment has captured screws that use a coin for a screwdriver.DSCF3070 DSCF3074 DSCF3077 DSCF3079 DSCF3080 Grommets are a bit worn…DSCF3081 Causing the tuning capacitor to cant to the side.DSCF3082 Neat heat sinks on the red headed transistors.