Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A day at the other Garage

I put in about 13 hours at work last night on my new project. When I was done, I figured I'd spend a little time at the Microsoft Garage, a Microsoft-funded, open-use makerspace just a couple blocks from my building in Redmond. Among the cool equipment we get to play with is an Epilog Helix laser -- the same machine I used for my first project, a 13x13 go board.

This time, I wanted to try out my port of BoxMaker with SVG output functionality -- a very useful feature that lets me import my file into Visio and add extra raster etches or vector cuts before I send the job to the laser.

I created two 3" cubed boxes and etched "REED" on one and "JACOB" on the other. The job took only about five minutes to cut all 12 pieces.

When I got home, I assembled both boxes, using wood glue on all but the top piece to keep them assembled. 

The boys were quite happy this morning when they got their own treasure boxes.

After hitting the main Garage space, I went over to Microsoft's other lab that, among other things, contains a vinyl cutter. After a short time playing around with the configuration, I was up and running. I grabbed a couple Foo Fighters logos, converted them to SVG using potrace, then cut them out on the machine, removed the unnecessary vinyl pieces and added the adhesive front. The result isn't much to look at, but it's the completed product, ready to be applied.

I cut two of the top designs, deciding partway through today that I would put one of them on my laptop. So I cleaned up the plastic with some rubbing alcohol and a paper towel, removed the backing, and applied the vinyl with a credit card to ensure it stuck.

With the adhesive removed, the result is rather nice.

Foo Fighters on the inside, Seattle + Mt. Rainier on the outside (designed by the talented Luke Kackman).

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It's not a garage until it's got a work bench

This weekend and last were spent mostly in the garage and in the back yard, and we started pushing the limits of our Mazda 3 for its lumber-carrying capabilities.

We started with some 4x4 posts from Lowes that I used for the legs of my work bench. They just barely fit in the car with the trunk closed:

However, it required we move Jacob into the front seat. He was quite happy to accommodate this for the trip home.

Once home, I cut the posts to length and did some notch cuts at the top and about a third of the way down for the 2x4s that would support the top- and shelf-level plywood, respectively. With the notches cut, I had two very eager helpers to clean and chisel out the notches.

With a very basic frame setup and not enough supplies to finish, I waited until this Saturday to continue. First thing Saturday morning, I ran to Lowes again and picked up some 2x4s and a sheet of plywood. Who knew plywood was so expensive? Fifty dollars for this thing, which dwarfs the cost of all other materials. I didn't have any idea how wide the opening was with the rear seats folded down, so I had to simply hope (since I lacked the foresight to check) that it would fit. Only a few quizzical looks from others as I prepared to load this into the car.

But it worked! and with only a couple feet sticking out the back.

Once home, I proceeded to make more notch cuts. I previously was doing so with my new-to-me table saw, but I realized my circular saw would do a much better job (in no small part because I could move that around as I saw fit rather than trying to run a full bench across the table saw).

Not knowing what I was doing, I winged it, first by marking the edges of where the 2x4 would go and cutting two lines (having already set the depth on my saw).

Then it was a half-dozen or so intermediate cuts for every cutout I wanted to do.

And ever so gently, I smashed out the chips with my 5lb sledge.

With my cheapy set of chisels, I cleaned out the notch as best I could. Often, this was good enough, but I wanted these to be as clean and even as reasonable, so I took my circular saw and ran it back and forth (perpendicular to the direction of the blade) and got them nice and smooth.

With the notch cleaned out, I could then place and set my 2x4 to make a much more solid frame.

With the two braces already in-place on the lower section, I added two more then four on the top for 12 notches total to cut out, which probably only took 45 minutes or so. Some screws to hold them in place and I was nearly complete.

I originally planned on the bench being three feet deep, but we later decided to put the bench in a different area, and three feet was too big. I reduced it to 2.5', so I had to run the plywood through my table saw to make it fit properly. The shelf is now two pieces of plywood 'scrap', but it works out well.