Engineer & Entertain

Ideas I grapple with

Archive for the tag “Make”

Burning Rubber

Rangers light the way

I used a section of old 700×23 cc bicycle tube to create a waterproof sleeve for a mini Bic lighter. The design was completely stolen copied peer reviewed from Gearward’s Ranger Bic.


  • Old 700×23 cc bicycle tube
  • E6000 glue
  • 1/4″ Grommet


  • Hole punch
  • Scissors
  • Spring clamp
  • Hammer

Rangers light the way

The tube was cut a little longer than the length of a Bic mini lighter.

Rangers light the way

The lighter was placed in the tube to provide some structure. Clear E6000 glue was squirted into the tube and a spring clamp was applied. Wax paper was placed between the jaws of the clamp to prevent glue squeeze out from sticking to the clamp.

The next day a hole was punched and 1/4″ grommet was installed. The grommets used were incredibly cheap from Walmart. One of the grommets came loose after installation. It may be worth it to get better grommets or to use a flaring tool. I used a deadblow hammer and an anvil. I also tried replacing the anvil with a piece of scrap wood. Results were the same. Your mileage may vary.

Flimsy grommets aside, I am pleased with the result. Put the lighter in flint first and it is waterproof. The grommet provides an attachment point which is always convenient when camping.



Get off your high horse

Traditional Japanese woodworking is performed while seated on the ground. So as to not cut into your tatami, saw horses low to the ground are used.

I do not frequently crosscut while sitting in seiza, but I have found many uses for the horses

  • Several sets of them on the floor of your shop make it very easy to break down sheet goods
  • Take a pair and a saw when you go to purchase lumber. Yes, most places will cut the lumber for a small fee, but where is the fun in that?
  • Use them on your workbench to lift work off the bench.
  • Push up bars. Crank out a few push ups while you contemplate your next saw cut.

The low horses are also a great project to help you bootstrap your wood shop. They are cheap and easy to build. Also, they can be built with only hand tools.

I largely followed the procedure laid out by Make Skill Builder: Building Woodworking Low HorsesI cut four legs at 8 inches long and two beams at 22 inches long.

Some assembly required.

I found the center of the beams’ thickness. I also found the center of the legs’ length. These marks allow for dead-on layout for the Lincoln log notches which will be sawn out.

The notches are 1/2″ deep. I did not measure their width. I marked where I wanted the notches and then used the connecting piece to mark the width. Measurement is the enemy of precision. I used a coping saw to cut the walls of the notches.

I then used the coping saw to remove the waste from the notches.

Cut as close to the line as you can. It will make for less clean up with a chisel & mallet later.

A chisel will clean up the notch. Like an electron killing psychopath, I used a trim router with a straight bit to square everything up.

I cut relief with the coping saw in the bottoms of the legs to create feet. Again I used the trim router to tidy my cuts, but a mallet and chisel could be used.

I applied glue to the notches and clamped everything together.

The other one looks exactly like the first. I love a good set of twins.

I skipped cutting any design into the legs. Despite my aversion to aesthetics, sawing curves into the horses provides practice for curved cutting and makes them easy to identify as yours.

Tooling Around

After running Shopbot’s hello world, my first project was Shopbot’s accessory holder. The project takes you through the basics of designing in VCarve Pro, creating tools paths, and running the file with a CNC.

Tooling around

So as to get more practice, I made some revisions to the tool holder to store the accessories I received with my Handibot. I removed the three large holes which hold spare collets, three of the 1/4″ bit holders, and reduced the rectangular recess. I added six 3/16″ holes at the top to hold allen keys and a second slot to hold a 7mm wrench.

Tooling around

The 3/16″ holes were milled first with a 1/8″ single fluted bit. I marked the location of the Handibot by tracing around it. I switched out the 1/8″ bit for a 1/4″ upcut spiral bit. The rest of the tool holder was milled and cut out.

The redesign worked well in that it gave me more practice, but admittedly it is not how I prefer to store tools and accessories. Even though I thought I was thorough in realigning the Handibot with the pencil tracings when switching out the bits, I was still off. Thankfully the design had loose enough tolerances to accommodate a less than perfect alignment.

I CNC what you did there

I make it a point to not purchase a new tool or material unless it is truly needed. The basis for this rule:

  • I do not want to buy a tool that I will not use frequently enough to justify its cost.
  • Often I can use a tool I already have or build a jig to allow the necessary process to occur.
  • Having a limited set of tools puts constraints on my work and constraint breeds creativity.

Recently though I made a purchase which violates this very rule.

I have no need for a robot which can perform routing, engraving, cutting, and milling operations. But I have wanted one since I used a computer numerical controlled mill in my high school engineering class. Creating with a CNC machine provides an abundance of possibilities. The Handibot has an astronomical amount of potential.

My main attraction to the Handibot was twofold. First, I did not have to assemble it. There are many plans and DIY kits to assemble your own CNC for far less than purchasing a ready-made machine. Knowing that accuracy would be paramount in a DIY kit I opted to not go that route. I know others have built their CNC machines accurately and easily, but I do not have the patience to do so.

My second draw to the Handibot was its size. CNC mills range in size from small enough to fit on your desk to large enough to handle a 4 feet by 8 feet sheet of plywood. You bring the machine to the workpiece with a Handibot. While its cutting area is 6 x 8 inches I can move the Handibot anywhere on the workpiece and run a process. I am not sure how often I will mill on a sheet of plywood, but it is nice having the ability without having to dedicate the space to a large machine.


The software installation was fairly straightforward; I followed the dialog boxes as directed. I did have a run time error when I tried to run ShopBot 3 because it tried to divide by zero. Turns out I was supposed to run ShopBot_PRSDesktop2418.

It comes with VCarve Pro which is the design and layout software. PartWorks 3D is CAM software. These two bits of software can either be downloaded and installed from a zip file or with the included flash drive. The flash drive also has ShopBot Design (communicates between the device and computer) and ShopBot Editor (reads and edits the ShopBot files).


After installing the software, I zeroed the XYZ axes as directed. I then ran Shopbot’s version of “Hello World”.

The Handibot carves Shopbot’s logo with a 90 degree V bit. It provides fairly clean edges, but the detail will be dependent on the sharpness of the bit and the material being cut.

All of the fuzzy wood chips could be brushed away with an old toothbrush.

Cutting the birch plywood produced very little dust. I ran the sample twice – once with a shop vac attached to the dust port and once without. In both cases there was no observable airborne wood chips or dust. Regardless, you should always wear respiratory protection, but I am not concerned about my computer being near a router.

With and without a shop vac for dust collection.

On Deck

The main limiting reagent is my lack of knowledge of VCarve Pro. The last time I used CAD, CAM, CNC, or any other engineering software my roommates were my parents. Thankfully Vectric provides resources on how to use the software and there are other tutorials on YouTube and Instructables. My attempts at making some other logos and text in plywood were met with failure. I am sure I will figure it out in due time. Or I will become so incredibly frustrated with it I will sell it on Craigslist. Either way.

I am not sure what projects I will attempt with my new tool. Suggestions are always welcome. I love the promise and bright future it offers.

Robert Planter

Every summer the little lady and I say, “We should have a garden!” And at the end of every summer the little lady and I are in the grocery store holding bell peppers wondering why we never planted a garden. I hypothesize our problem is that our plans are so large that we never start.

To curtail such problems I made a small herb garden designed by Steve Marin on Woodworking For Mere Mortals.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

I followed the instructions laid out in the video.

Everything is made from pine 1×4, 1×6, and 2×4. Steve finished his with a deck stain and I opted not to do that simply because I am curious how the wood will hold up over the summer.

The wonderful thing about woodworking is that there are many ways to arrive at the same result. Steve used a chop saw and jigsaw. I used a Japanese ryoba.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

If we do not grow any thing this summer then I am going to convert the planter into a trebuchet.

An Oxidant Waiting To Happen

I purchased a hatchet today at a garage sale. It is sharp, the handle is comfortable, and the shoulder is snug in the eye. So what is the problem? The blade is very rusty. This is not actually a problem as it will let me try science!

Rust can be removed with elbow grease, chemical cleaner, or electrolysis. I am opting to remove it with electrolysis. The positive clip of a 12V car battery charger is attached to a piece of rebar and the negative clip is attached to copper wire wrapped around rusted tool. The rebar and rusted tool are then submerged for several hours in a solution of sodium carbonate and water (1 tbsp (15mL) per 1 gallon (3.8 L)of water).

Before pictures of the subjects. The chisel is from my late grandpa which has seen better days.

14 gauge copper wire wrapped around the tool.

Wood board keeps the wires separated.








The free ends are pigtailed. A ziptie keeps the rebar upright.

The positive terminal is connected to the sacrificial rebar. The negative terminal is connected to the copper wire.

The 12V battery charger is set to 2 amps.

After a few minutes black flakes form which are bits of rust being removed.

Safety notes

The car battery charger is plugged into a GFCI circuit. The electrolysis is also set up in a well ventilated area. A common science demonstration is using electrolysis to separate water into oxygen gas and hydrogen gas. I see no reason why this rust removing process would not also produce the gases.


Rust removing electrolysis is well detailed on Instructables.

Maker Camp

Using the magic of the Internet you can attend a geeky summer camp run by Make.  You’ll learn to make rockets, robots, and more.  It is free and starts today.

Leatherman Micra Key Mod

Several years ago I had the notion to take an old bicycle multitool and replace some of the tools with my house keys.  Due to laziness and a lack of mechanical know-how, I never did it.  Recently I saw the work of someone who had a similar notion.  The journeyman replaced the blades of the Leatherman Micra with his house keys.  Having a spare Leatherman around I decided to replicate his work.

Using two sets of pliers, the screws which the tools pivot around were removed.  Each screw was gripped and twisted until they came loose.  It took a decent amount of torque as the screws are superglued together as well.

After removing the screws and carefully retaining the tool blades, washers, and backsprings which came out, a tool was used as a template to determine how much of the key handle would have to be removed.

Initially I used a Dremel rotary tool to remove the material, but a hacksaw proved to be much faster.  An 11/64 hole was also drilled into the key.

The hacksawed areas were filed and then the tool was reassembled with the keys in place of some of the tool blades.  Initially, I had a key on each side, but this only allowed for one tool on each side. The keys were just a little bit thicker than the tools; enough to prevent two tools and a key from residing on one handle.  Ultimately, there is a tool handle and a key handle.

There is no blade on the tool because I typically carry a separate pocket knife and because the retained tools are generally allowed in areas where knives may be prohibited e.g. government buildings, airports, etc.

The process was straight forward and now I have a small complement of tools with my keys.  If any one else attempts to replicate this let me know how it goes.  The best piece of advice I can offer is to retain the order of the tools and backsprings.  The constraints are rather narrow facilitating need to reorder things carefully.

There is possibility of bending the already hacksawed and damaged key, but if I ever broke it I would not be too concerned.  There are keys everywhere, they are just in the shape of rocks.

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