Monday, February 3, 2014

Project: Workbench

So, I know I generally just write blog posts to complain about crap or to tell you about some awesome new product or service that I've recently started using, but today, I wanted to tell you about a project that has been keeping me busy for a couple of months - My workbench.

Now, sure, I could have gone out and purchased a workbench from the local hardware store or used a prefabricated counter top and bolted it to the wall, but where is the fun in that?!

For this project, I started by researching some workbench designs and talking to friends and family about different options. I wanted something substantial. Something tall. Something that wasn't too deep or shallow. something that would give me storage, but not look like an eyesore.

Mostly, I wanted to rip out the old workbench (made of scrap parts by the previous owners) and build one that meets my needs and expectations.
This gave me the excuse to do several things:
  1. Hang out with my dad and several of my friends.
  2. Play with power tools.
  3. Learn something new!
Once I had an idea of what I wanted to build, I quickly realized that I HATE drawing up designs using paper and pencil. I HATE it.

It's difficult to do and when you make a mistake you have to start over or do lots of erasing. it's terrible.
That's where SketchUp Make came in handy! This software is awesome. It took a little bit of trial and error, but it's really easy to learn and use. Their tutorial videos are fantastic! [No, I'm not sponsored by these guys. they make a great product and deserve to be recognized for it.]

SketchUp gave me the ability to tweak the design and try different things in a 3D space ultimately designing a MUCH better product. I can't stress how much I love this software. The rendering above is the workbench without the 3/8" plywood top and shelves.

UPDATE (2/4/2015): I decided it would be nice to provide the SketchUp design files so that you can view the design and pick it apart at home. I'll try to keep this link active.

I wanted the workbench's primary aesthetic to be the 2x4 frame and the 4x4 legs. I also wanted to recess the plywood top and shelving so that the edges would be covered by the 2x4 framing. I achieved this by inlaying bracing the held the top and shelves.

We started with the 2x4 frame for the top of the bench and worked our way down. The photo on the right shows the plywood top laying inside the frame (placed there to verify the measurements for the legs and bracing.

Here is a rendering of one of the legs. SketchUp allows you to group and duplicate elements.
This comes in handy especially when you want to make an exploded view.
The bandsaw made short work
of the notching process
Just needed to notch the 4x4 and them move on to the bandsaw.

The 4x4 legs were notched to allow the top frame to sit down into the 4x4 to support the frame and the top.
Forstner bit used to make a nice flat resessed hole for washer
and lagbolt to hold 4x4 leg flush against the frame.

This bit of scrap wood was roughly
the width of the bandsaw blade.
Next we needed to notch the rear 4x4's on the inner face to make room for the 2x4 that runs the length of the bench. We decided to dado (without a dado blade) the notch just enough to make room for the bandsaw to to take care of the rest of the cut.

Once the notch was cut, we were able test fit the 2x4.

We waited until this point int he build to actually chop the legs to lenght. We decided it would be best to get our notching done first just in case we messed something up.

Chop! Chop!

Time to attach the legs to the top!!!

Then we measured, cut, and ripped some 2x4s
for the recessed bracing.
The original plans did not have this, but we decided that it would be nice to notch the long 2x4 on the back to better support the bracing that runs from front to back on the shelving rather than screw it together from behind the 4x4 leg.

To do that, we had to fit the long 4x4 into place and then mark the notch points. Since this was a shallow cut, it was easiest to do the entire cut on the table saw. We were only making 2 notches after all.
At this point in the build we did a lot of measuring, cutting, and assembling. I did not, however, do a lot of photographing. As a result, there isn't much documentation of the lower bracing (that holds the shelving and makes the bench nice and sturdy.)

The bracing sure looked nice once it was assembled, though. The front and back bits of inner bracing are the ripped section of 2x4. I wasn't too concerned about the lower shelving needing a lot of lip to sit on all the way around, so I used some of the wood that was left over from ripping the upper 2x4s.

Dad asking for me to bring him a sarsaparilla. (We're not done yet, pops!)

Something I didn't consider in the design phase: Garage floors are NOT level. They are uneven. They require leveling feet.

Have you ever priced heavy duty leveling feet? Those sonsofbitches ain't cheep.

So, I did some research and came across Dan's Shop. Great work, Dan!

One thing I found out, however, is that coupling nuts can be a little steep for what they are....

3" Carriage bolts from Lowe's
Under a buck each.
1/2" Coupling Nuts from Lowe's
Just shy of $4 each.
12 pack for $20

For less than the $32 I would have spent at Lowe's for the coupling nuts, I rummaged through eBay and found a box of 100. I figured the math made sense and I also purchased 35 carriage bolts for $10 while I was there. It saved me a trip and I've got plenty to spare.
'X' marks the spot.

The floor stand drill press was hard to
move around, but it sure was handy
for drilling these holes
Threading the bolt into the joining nut made
it easier to hammer the bolt down. I recessed
the nut a bit because my bolts were so long.

Stop. It's Hammer Time.

We used a wood bit slightly smaller than the
diameter of the bolt head and the hockey pucks
actually hold tightly to the bolt.

All that was left was to cut the 3/8" plywood and drop it into place for the bottom shelving.

Look. It's a shelf. With stuff on it!
It still needs a bit of sanding and I'm not sure how and if I'm going to coat it. Overall, I'm quite pleased with the build and am excited to start my next project - now with a functional workbench at my disposal!

For those who want to know, I spent about $200 on materials for this project not counting tools.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Google Reader

I use Google Reader. A lot.

Google Reader is how I consume internet. Well, Google Reader is how I consume internet that I WANT to stay up to date with. I also use StumbleUpon and Facebook, but Reader is where I go to see what blogs, comics, and youtube channels have made updates.

I got a message today that said that Google Reader would be retired on July 1.

At first, I thought - "Wow, Google is starting those April Fools jokes a little early!" but then as I read through it, I realized (much to my dismay) that it wasn't a farce.

Now I'm left wondering what service I'll need to use that gives me the same abilities. I have to admit, there may be better products out there. I've never looked. Google Reader gave me everything I needed and it was already wrapped into my Google Ecosystem, so I didn't have to login on another website - why look for a replacement when this has worked so well for me for so long?

Google says this is part of their goal to focus attentions to their most popular services... maybe that means they'll finally make a 64Bit version of Google Chrome? Who knows.

What alternatives have you found for organizing RSS feeds and monitoring what you've read/watched?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Did you know I still have a blog?

Today I read a post from my sister's blog. It forced invited me to answer a list of questions.

Here goes:

  1. If you could have any job for a day, unpaid, what would it be and why?
    I'd probably want to work for Lego designing new toy lines... seriously, where did all the cool Lego sets go? I don't feel the urge to spend $500 on legos anymore (not that I ever acted on that urge). But I used to wanted to... all the time! Now, I feel content with the legos I have. Though the Mindstorms line is still awesome... more so than before...
  2. Are you prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse?
    No. You can never prepare for the Apocalypse... Zombie or otherwise.
  3. Which Doctor is your favorite?
    Dr. David F. Jimenez
  4. Christian Bale is the best Batman.  Explain why.
    Because he looks the most like Adam West without talking like Adam West. Actually, I think this whole thing might be backward... Adam West is probably the best batman because he talks the LEAST like Christian Bale. :-P
  5. What do you do for fun?
    I draw a web comic.
  6. What is the best cleaning or organizing tip you have ever put into practice?
    The very best tip when it comes to organizing comes from Nike: Just do it. One of the hardest things for me was letting go of the sentimental attachments. Once I got over that, I was able to throw away all sorts of useless clutter.
  7. What is the worst advice you were ever given?
    Someone once told me to break up with a girl I was dating. I think that was the worst advice I've ever been given. Fortunately, I ignored that advice and we are happily married.
  8. What is your biggest pet peeve?
    The general sense of self entitlement that folks seem to have these days. I don't care if you earned it or not. The fact that you expect it at all times means you don't deserve it. Life isn't fair. You're not the center of the universe. Stop pretending like you're the only person that matters...
  9. What is your favorite book?
    Probably The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss...
  10. 3D movies?  Fan or no and why?
    I think that 3D is cool when it's used in a documentary like Aliens of The Deep. I don't like when it's used instead of good story telling. I find that 3D takes away from my viewing experience more often than add to it... Those 3D for the sake of 3D moments got old really quick. Just use traditional methods of adding depth to your scenes by composing them artistically and I'm happy.

The instructions didn't seem to require me to do anything additional, so I'm going to slowly back away from the keyboard...

UPDATE: I've been informed that I'm supposed to tell you 5 things that my sister doesn't already know about me. Wow... That's probably easier said than done. I probably way over share with her, so let's see...

  1. When I was little, I actually believed that I was a robot that my father had built and that when I slept he would plug me in so that I could charge.
  2. The first time I went to confession as a child, I confessed to Fr. Phillips that I had hit my sister in the head with a rollerskate (even though I didn't do that on purpose... It was honestly just a really lucky hit.) It had been a few years since it happened but I still felt super guilty about it.
  3. I hate reading books in printed form. Physical books annoy me so much that I'd rather not read them at all... Having to remember where you put the book, having to use a book marker, having to physically hold it in your hands... the shortcomings go on and on. I much prefer the Kindle app on my iPhone, iPad, and desktop. I also love Audible and am tempted to use Whisper Sync so that I can read when I'm at home and listen when I'm in the car...
  4. I feel like Amazon, Newegg and Apple should give me money because I convince so many people to use their services, but I suppose that wouldn't make any difference since I do it anyway.
  5. I'm not at all ashamed that these last 2 items are somewhat of a cheat.

Monday, December 17, 2012

An open letter to the Google Chrome Team

Dear google,
Before I start, I want to get something off my chest. I love you, Google. Your software and services have always made me happy. Until last week. Maybe that's what makes me so angry... you've always been there for me, and right now I feel like you've let me and my users down.

I can't count how many people I've recommended Google Chrome to... Hell, I can't stand using other browsers... but last week, I did the unthinkable. I started telling my users to use Firefox and Safari.

Why? Because you failed to keep up with the times. You're a 32bit program in a 64bit world. Apple has dropped Java from OSX. Sun has released a 64bit only version of Java. Java is required for a large portion of my users' daily tasks.

The reason I first tried Chrome was for it's speed and security. I stayed because it was able to deliver everything I wanted, everything I needed, and more. But the greatness of the past does not guarantee greatness in the future...

Safari now does all the things that I love about chrome... the difference? It also does the things that Chrome currently can't.

Google, you have a pressing need. Chrome 64bit needs to be released before you lose more users. Users who love your product, but will find an alternative if necessary... users who hold grudges. Users who change loyalty quickly, but don't easily regain trust in software that fails them.

I know my customer base and I fear for the future of Chrome.

Google... I'm begging you... Get with the programming.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The sound of silence

Today I had a scare. I was filled with a sense of panic. For several moments I thought I was going to have to rebuild my music collection.

I've got about 10 GB of music. That isn't as large a collection as many folks I know, but it's a fair amount of music. Today I was syncing to my iPad and I was getting errors from many of the tracks.

For each track that wouldn't sync, I noticed the ID3 tags and album art were missing. They were still full size and the length was showing up properly, but the songs would not play.

At first I thought it was just one or two tracks... It was a lot more than that.

So I thought to myself... "Self, you're a pretty competent tech user. Whe are your backups?"

Well, I have Windows 7 Ultimate, so I checked for previous versions... Nothing from more than a month ago... And those were just as useless.

Ok, what about Carbonite? Negative. The online versions were the same damages versions.

I could try to recover them from my iPod... But my iPod often skips and distorts... I'm pretty sure it's not a reliable source.

Where else can I check... Ah! My MacBook Pro! - Maybe... Perhaps... YES!!!

All the tracks I tested play fine!

Now to back them up in like 30 new ways.

That was a close one....

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I've searched lightly on Google for an answer to a question that has been plaguing my mind lately, and I've yet to find an answer. My goal here is to spark a conversation. Before I ask you the question, I want to discuss scrolling.

For as long as I've used a computer, scrolling has been an important feature. Whether coding in basic, working in a word processor, or browsing the web, scrolling is an important feature. We've been given handy widgets on screen that we can manipulate with the mouse, but the advent of the scroll wheel made the job faster and easier. And, since we were all used to "scrolling down" by clicking the down arrow on the scroll bar or dragging the slider down the page, it was only natural that scrolling the wheel towards you would do the same thing.

I think a great deal of this has to do with what we call the top and bottom of the page. Page Up and Page Down mesh perfectly with scrolling as we've known if for years.

But it wasn't natural. My mind always thought it was backwards... I "scroll down" and the page itself moves ... UP.

Apple recently decided that scrolling should be "natural." And although it took me some time to come onboard, I agree. Natural scrolling makes sense! You move the page... not the scroll bar. To make things even easier, Apple has hidden the scrollbar by default.

This brings me to my question... A question that I've yet to find an answer in my own mind. When we want to have someone scroll towards the bottom of a page, we say "scroll down." To have them scroll towards the top of the page, we say "scroll up."

Is this still the correct way to refer to our scrolling? We're now moving our two fingers up the trackpad to "scroll down" which moves the page up. Conversely, we move our fingers down the trackpad to "scroll up" which moves the page down. Should we also change our vocabulary? Has this revolution in scrolling just confused things? Should we say "Scroll towards the top of the page?"

It seems only natural to question this advancement. What do you think?

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I'm so glad that someone finally turned this:

into this:

because hands free devices are too difficult to figure out... I wish I could just have something hold my entire phone to my head...

Wow. Just wow.