Light sabre

Ever been sunburned? Gone to bed with that awful, sweaty, stinging feeling of hot regret? Had little blisters form then pop? We pretty much all have haven’t we. Stupid bastards that we are! “Stupid” because that ol’ friend of ours, our nearest star, our planet’s parent and orbital centre, The Sun, puts out a lot of energy. Just how much; well obviously enough to broil your shoulders at some point!

As this picture clearly shows, you can work out the energy received at any given point using this simple formula:

\overline{Q}^{\mathrm{day}}, the theoretical daily-average insolation at the top of the atmosphere, where θ is the polar angle of the Earth’s orbit, and θ = 0 at the vernal equinox, and θ = 90° at the summer solstice; φ is the latitude of the Earth. The calculation assumed conditions appropriate for 2000 A.D.: a solar constant of S0 = 1367 W m−2, obliquity of ε = 23.4398°, longitude of perihelion of ϖ = 282.895°, eccentricity e = 0.016704. Contour labels (green) are in units of W m−2.”

Got that? Clearly though this formula doesn’t account for the various ways that the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs and scatters the energy as it travels from the outer edge of the atmosphere to ground level. That varies depending on cloud cover and other suspended moisture, suspended particulates, vegetation and so on. So lets just sum it all up and say that the sun puts out a lot of energy and on a hot, clear day you could fry an egg very, very quickly using just the sun’s heat.

Which brings us to this little conundrum; what do you do with an old satellite (internet) dish that has been superseded with a newer, faster model?

IMG_0623Do you;

  1. Give it to the dish-installer man to take away and dispose of?
  2. Turn it into a very large birdbath?
  3. Leave it forever behind the garage until the Missus yells “Clean that shitpile up!”
  4. Use it to make mischief (in a fun, harmless way of course)?

Guess which numbered box the money is in….you betcha….Number 4!

There are quite a few YouTube videos of people making reflector dishes out of old sat’ dishes. Many of them use the little, square mirrors, like off a disco mirror ball. All I can say is that they must be richer than me, or at least more willing to throw money at a simple, fun project. At the cheapest price I could find those mirror squares for sale the total cost for enough of them would have been $400-$500. No way José!!

Reflective Mylar film is another matter – a roll of that comes in about $40-$50. The overall reflective properties probably aren’t quite as good as a set of glass mirrors (Mylar film comes in at about 92-97% reflectivity, not too different than mirrors as the actual reflective material in a mirror is basically the same stuff; however the Mylar film is impossible to adhere to the dish without some imperfections resulting, such as ripples, bubbles and some areas of glue overspray) and of course the film won’t be weatherproof so the dish will have to be stored indoors. However these cons just pale into insignificance against the cost savings.

The film was cut into (roughly) triangular shapes to allow us to better shape it into the dish. To glue the film to the dish we used a spray adhesive, masking off each previously glued section to prevent (OK…minimise) overspray.

Here is the completed dish, mounted on the post, leg spars and roof brackets that were intended to actually put the original dish on a roof, and are here slightly modified to provide a stable, free-standing base.

IMG_0635It all looks very innocent. Looks can however be deceiving…

More mayhem….errrr….I mean “Scientific Experiments of an Educational Nature” videos to come. The video above was our first “experiment” which was performed at around 2:30pm mid September. Can’t wait for mid-Summer at between 11am and 1pm (solar time).

Warning – try this at home.

The Coffee Table Book (Addendum)

Vermont is a bloody nice place. Nice people. Nice coffee. Nice environment. The ONLY state in the USA which has a state capital (Montpelier) which does not have a McDonalds outlet in town. I mean…how good is THAT! I particularly recommend the Rivendell Book shop there as being a very cool little bookshop selling a mix of new and second hand titles, which also features highly knowledgeable staff who can find a second hand copy of Finnegans Wake in an instant, without resorting to looking on the computer to see if they have it in stock and if so where in the shop it might be. The shop also has a very happy looking turtle in a large tank in the rear children’s book room. You don’t get that buying books through Amazon.com.

Vermont was also the birthplace of Edward John Phelps.

Edward was a man of excellent whiskers, crinkly laugh lines around his eyes, and a habit of quoting other, similarly whiskered men, for example a certain William Connor Magee.

Now ol’ Billy Magee actually lived during the early years of photography, albeit he died well before every man and his monkey was busy snapping selfies every second of the day. Despite Billy and photography sharing their timelines all we have as a visual reminder of little Billy is this:

I think we can all agree that either Billy was, ahem…not everyone’s idea of a “Babaliscious Stud”. Or perhaps that this is not exactly the best drawing in the world. Still…now I know who inspired this character:

Despite appearances ol’ Billy Magee was no fool, and he is famous for saying “The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything”; exactly the words that Edward would quote some years later.

And so it is that via a circuitous route we come to the postmortem of the coffee table construction, for it certainly was not without the making of mistakes.

To be fair, the only “formal” learning I have received concerning woodwork came in the form of a woodworking class I took in Year 9 or year 10 in High School, and I can’t say I was “Top of the class”. Still…life I think can make one more practical as time goes by, and so those long ago learned basics are perhaps today augmented by a little more common sense and a set of basic tools with which practice has made me familiar, plus some feeling of security that comes from the knowledge that any mistakes made are mine alone and won’t be counting toward a dreaded school report at end of term.

Things I would do differently next time:

  • Keep a wider separation between random bits of cloth and electric planers.
  • Even when knowing which way I wanted the legs glued, slap myself a few times before drilling and gluing them together.
  • Work out some way of rigging up a planing jig (without having to buy one) so that I could have finished the timbers for the top slab to D.A.R. state ie. planed to squared dimensions. The individual strips within the edge-dowelled slab don’t quite come together in some places as the sides were planed to eye-sight not in a jig. Overall this looks OK as the finished piece has a deliberately “organic” shape anyway, but having the timbers D.A.R. would have been nice.
  • Cutting to length braces that match the distances between the leg cuts on the bottom shelf, allowing the legs and shelf to be (dry) clamped to the exact dimensions, using the braces to keep the correct distances between the leg pairs before drilling the dowel holes in the tops of the legs and then in the top slab. Despite the best care somehow the legs ended up moving out a little during this step, thus the cut-outs in the bottom shelf each have about a 1.5mm gap instead of each leg being tight into its cut-out.

That said, I am happy with the outcome. It is nice to put something down on that table and know that it is a product of my own effort, and not something that has been spat out at volume from some distant, anonymous factory. It is also nice to know that this piece of furniture has not required the felling of some new forest in order to make it, as it is (mostly) a product of re-using old timbers. Finally, it is good to take some old piece of timber and turn it into something useful.

Thus life’s circle turns and what was ageing and passed it’s first purpose has become something new.

 

The Coffee Table Book (Part 5)

Time to dust off the tools and replace those buggered legs.

IMG_0598 copyHere are the two, glued and finish-sanded sets of legs. Sadly there were no more “nice old bolt holes” to be had, but each leg features a couple of nail holes, from which the nails have been pulled (well….”mostly pulled” as a few snapped off despite the best of care).

IMG_0485Next step is to trim a slab of White Cedar that was gifted to me a number of years back, and which will form the bottom shelf of the table – as well as doubling as lower bracing between the leg-sets.

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After cutting the cedar slab has then been sanded with 80, 120, 240 and 280 grade paper. There was quite a bit of saw blade chatter marking on the board, especially near the larger of the two circles in the grain (where a branch would have originally grown). To completely eliminate these would have required taking about 2mm off which was impractical for a number of reasons. Hence the worst of the chatter has been sanded out before moving on to the finishing sanding. The end result is smooth, if a little ripply.

Here are all the pieces waiting for final assembly – pretty much the last time this is going to look like a pile of parts.

IMG_0598Here is the dry assemble – prior to drilling out the dowel holes in the top slab and the bottom shelf. Basically everything is just sitting, balanced on top of everything else at the moment.

And all clamped up for the final gluing…

After about an hour or so on went the first coat of linseed oil; everywhere except where the clamps and the glue were, because by this stage I just couldn’t wait to see what the grain was going to come up like…

Time to put it all away and let the final glue cure overnight!

<-Go to Part 4 …. Go to Part 6->

 

The Coffee Table Book (Part 4)

I admit it…I’ve been sulking for a little while. I’d thrown my safety goggles out of the pram. Downed tools. Generally turned my back on the Coffee Table project. You see….someone had been twisting my leg!

A while back I did a “finish sand” over all the surfaces of the first set of legs, dowelled them up, and braced and glued them. Here they are;

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One of the legs had a lovely, feature “bolt hole” for which this length of timber had been selected. All that remained to be done with this leg set was to give it a final finish-sand, especially to remove excess glue around the joints. All good!

Except….I’d put the legs on the wrong way! As you may see in the “middle” picture the leg timbers are rectangular, not square. In this leg-set I dowelled the crossbeam into the short side of the legs, not the wide side. This error is more than simply one with aesthetic implications, as it makes the overall leg set too wide for the table top.

Bugger-ation!!

No way to redeem this now – it just goes into the newly created “Collection of very nice H-shaped timber pieces that may one day be useful” pile. I’m rather hoping to not add too much more to that collection!

Oh well….after a little sulk it’s time to cut two more legs and start again!

<-Go to Part 3a …. Go to Part 5->

The Coffee Table Book (Part 3a) – A thumbs up for customer service

If you recall dear readers, at the end of Part 3 there was an unfortunate crossing of the beams, or rather the drum of the power planer and a piece of cloth. We’re digressing here for a moment to tell a story that follows the classic narrative arc:

  • stasis
  • trigger
  • quest
  • surprise
  • critical choice
  • climax
  • reversal
  • resolution

Once upon a time I started making a  table out of reclaimed timbers. This project involves the trimming of gnarly old, hardwood deck timbers with saw and power plane. The power plane is a hugely important character in this tale, without whom we would altogether be at a loss. His name is RYOBI, and he is a fetching shade of bright green, and is about fifteen months old. One day RYOBI accidentally swallowed some cloth, which wrapped itself around the drum before his operator could stop him spinning.

IMG_0462His operator (after unplugging RYOBI) unscrewed his side plate and tried to flip off RYOBI’s toothed drive belt so that the blade drum could be turned in a reverse direction so as to free the cloth. Sadly, the belt broke during this exercise. “No problem…drive belts on such power planers are user replaceable items,” thought RYOBI’s operator, “I’ll just get a new belt.”

And so to the store where RYOBI was originally purchased; the local Bunnings Hardware. Here the friendly Tool Section man, Luke, advised that belts could only be ordered via the Special Orders Desk in the store. “Bah-Humbug to that” thought RYOBI’s operator, and he promptly went home to order one online instead.

Here our story takes a dark and frustrating turn, as it turns out that the sole merchant for RYOBI products, including spare parts is in fact Bunnings. In fact the “Spare parts” page of the RYOBI Australia website is simply a store locator to allow you to find the nearest Bunnings outlet. Rather than head out the door again, RYOBI’s operator let his fingers do the walking and with a quick phone call later an order was placed for a new drive belt. All seemed OK in the world, and RYOBI would soon be happily spinning again and helping with the job of making the coffee table.

Hope was crushed however when a couple of days later a young lady by the name of Ali’ rang from the local Bunnings to advise that the RYOBI company had discontinued the supply of the needed drive belt. “But how can that be!?!?!” RYOBI’s operator exclaimed “They are still advertising that model planer on the website as being a current model, and you’re still selling the planers in the store!” Ali’, being only the messenger of the bad news in this saga was not held to blame however, and she offered our heroes redemption in form of a warranty claim “If you’ve had the planer for twelve months or less, and have the sales receipt just come into the store and we’ll replace it for you.”

Alas, RYOBI was already fifteen months old, and the sales receipt had not been kept. Drat! Double Drat!! And furthermore…Botheration!! However a few days later, after much seething about the Wasteful, Throw-Away Society in which we live and the expense of having to buy a new planer in order to replace a perfectly good one RYOBI’s operator noticed that RYOBI’s original box documented that he came with a TWO YEAR warranty. Still no sales receipt, however usually such a store as Bunnings will do a product swap or similar on supply of the credit/debit card used for purchase.

RYOBI’s operator tucked him all up neatly and snugly in his box, along with all his accessories and headed off therefore to the local Bunnings outlet. Now this Bunnings is not actually the same Bunnings where our hero was purchased, as that outlet has subsequently been closed and the store reopened to larger premises just a throw of a hammer distance away. Presenting himself, RYOBI nestled in his box, his tale of woe and his card at the service counter RYOBI’s operator was told “We can’t actually look up card purchase history from that other (now closed) store as in our IT systems that is officially a different store than this one and we don’t have access to that store’s records. Nevertheless, go and see Luke in Tools and we’ll sort it out somehow.”

Off to see Luke, to again tell the story, point out the illogic of the fact that Bunnings is still selling the same model of planer that the manufacturer is no longer stocking parts for even though its only fifteen months old and advise that the lovely lady over at the Service Counter has promised a happy ending. “But we can look up the purchase.” says Luke “We can’t in-store but our central IT department can do a search if you can tell me roughly when you made the purchase. I’ll need your card details and a rough idea when you made the purchase, and if you give me your mobile number and wait a while I’ll see what we can do.”

RYOBI and his operator thus went on an extended browse around the BBQ section, the plant nursery, a toilet stop (Note to Bunnings – you need more than one hand drier in the men’s toilet) and then back to the tool section to ogle the selection of Dremel fittings…until….some 45 minutes later….bbrrrnngg bbrrrngg goes the mobile with Luke on the line to say “Come and find me again and we’ll sort you out.”

It transpires that the IT department was still doing whatever Central Bunnings IT Departments do to try and locate a purchase in their records, but that Luke had decided to Do the Right Thing and process it all as a product warranty swap, and worry about the paperwork later. Sad, not-really-broken-but-needs-a-new-drive-belt RYOBI was thus left with the lovely lady at the service counter and replaced with a brand, spanking new replacement model.

Our Beautiful Assistant Shwoing off the NEW planer.Our story ends mostly happily then. The RYOBI company remains in the bad books for discontinuing a simple, user-replaceable part for a model of power tool that is still current and still being sold, and during the warranty period! Bunnings however demonstrated good customer service and sorted out the problem.

I now have a brand new planer, with a two year warranty starting now, and a new sales receipt that I will file away for a rainy day. However I am still annoyed that what is basically a perfectly good tool chock full of metal and plastic and the embedded energy and other resources used to manufacture it is no doubt destined for landfill. Totally and avoidably wasteful! Grrr!

<-Go to Part 3 …. Go to Part 4->

The Coffee Table Book (Part 3)

The top of the coffee table is now up to the next stage of the fun – shaping and sanding. The now dried slab of boards needs to be flattened on both sides, be trimmed to provide the overall shape, have the edges rounded and shaped and be sanded in preparation for finishing.

Sometimes it is best to embrace one’s weaknesses and turn them into a strength. These words of wisdom are my way of saying that I recognise that I am almost certainly never going to achieve a perfectly squared piece of furniture; after all we’re not making one of these:

antique-coffee-tables

 

 

 

 

 

 

Therefore I’m embracing my lack of exactness to create something more organic in nature. I also think this is more sympathetic to the nature of the materials I’m working with – reclaimed and reused timber.

The plan then (ok – there isn’t really a plan I’m working from other than a picture in my head I’m working towards and adapting and improvising along the way) is to round off the corners of the glued slab. Most importantly these round corners will be hand drawn and deliberately be uneven left to right and end to end. Before shaping the ends the slab has been rough planed both sides to a more even width.

IMG_0444After marking the cut the trimming is being done using a jig saw. Even with a fresh rip-cut blade the timbers really challenge the rip saw – not only is the slab right on the maximum thickness the saw can handle, the multi-decade seasoned ironbark is incredibly hard. I am really having to push the saw through the cut:

Movie:

Coffee Table – Ripsaw

IMG_0451Next stage is to further plane both sides of the slab, and also shape the edges using the plane. Then on to the sanding. The rough sand is with P80 grade – again the well seasoned ironbark is playing havoc with the tools. Overall the rough sand ripped through about twelve sheets of P80, which each sheet losing 50% of the effectiveness as a sanding material after the first 60 seconds of sanding.

The left hand side of the slab in this photo has been rough sanded, erasing the worse of the planer marks.

IMG_0457All that planing, cutting and orbital sanding was making my hands buzz….time for a coffee break. It seemed only the right thing to do to bring out the makings to the nascent table…

IMG_0461Lovely chocolate chip biscuit home baked yesterday by the Ladies of the House, and a quick few pages of The Bookshop that Floated Away which I bought as a birthday present for The Larger Loinfruit, and am now reading myself.

There is however no rest for the wicked and its back to the grind…or rather the planing and sanding. Seeing as the top of the table had been fully sanded by this point I took the precaution of padding the saw horses with some cloth so that the exercise of further planing and then sanding the underside, once the slab was flipped over, did not leave gouges and paint marks from the much used saw horse on the newly finished “top” surface. This was basically an excellent idea, but I wasn’t intending on this happening:

IMG_0462Note to self….be a little bit more careful when planing near bits of cloth.

The good news is that I now also know much more about how to take apart a RYOBI power planer than I did before. The bad news is that getting the cloth out required decoupling the tangled planer drum from the drive wheel by removing the drive belt (so that the drum could be turned in reverse) and that when I did so the drum band was damaged. This subsequently led to the discovery that the ONLY way to order RYOBI spare parts is via the Bunnings Special Orders Desk. Sigh….

Before packing up for the day I rubbed a small section of the sanded table with a wet cloth, and you can start to see the finish that will come up once the table is rubbed with linseed oil once completed. Not bad for a shitty old, nail ridden piece of old decking…

IMG_0453

<-Go to Part 2 …. Go to Part 3a->