Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Everything else that I did

Well, I'm back at work.  But, I got a lot done on vacation.

In addition to the blog entries from this last week, here are other things that I've done:

-Some exercising

-Put some more music on the kids' mp3 players

-Sewed some seams for the kids' stuffed animals:  a Luigi doll, a black spider, another black spider

-Mended a hole in a brown sitting cushion

-Sewed on a button to a work shirt; sewed on a button to my work trousers

-Super-glued the frame of my reading glasses (they've been held together with tape for a year or two; my brother in law suggested that I super-glue them; duh -- yes)

-Binge-watched the last half of the final season of Friends with my daughter

-Read a bedtime story to my kids (on the nights where they actually went to bed at a decent hour (they've been on school holidays)

So:  pretty good. :)


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Monday, September 26, 2016

Firewood shed

I'm recording yet another small-to-mid-sized project that I did during my week's vacation.

I sometimes make tiny little fires in my backyard, in a small terracotta fire bowl.  Because the fires are small, I don't need a whole lot of firewood:  various branches gathered from my back yard are enough.  But I have odd little stashes in various places, including my back porch.  So for the past few months I've intended to make a little firewood stand.  So, here it is.

I started cutting the pieces of wood, intermittently, early in my vacation -- maybe the 19th.  And I finished it last night, on the 25th of September.  All of the assembly took place on the 25th.

The project is based around triangles, because triangles are structurally very strong.  It also meant that nearly all of the pieces are the same length -- which was handy.

You'll notice that the wood is currently darker at the joints:  that's because I rubbed boiled linseed oil on at the joints before screwing the wood together, to protect the wood from moisture at least a little bit.  If I had tried to oil the wood after assembly, the oil may not have reached into the joints.

Also:  I've had this wood lying out in the open for more than ten years, getting rained on.  Wood is remarkably robust:  it can get wet, and as long as it doesn't stay wet (i.e. it gets a chance to dry out again), it doesn't rot.  Note that the wood was off the ground:  if it had been lying in the dirt, then yeah -- it probably would've rotted.

Although:  if I lived in a cold and rainy climate, this might not have worked.  But we get most of our rain in the summer -- so it's sunny and things dry out pretty quickly.

Here's a tool I made myself, maybe five years ago.  Basically, it's a handle for an L-shaped Allan wrench of the correct size for the hex screws that I like to use on my larger projects.  The wood is actually a tree root:  I wanted to see if a root was strong enough to use as "wood" (the answer is "Yes"). 

For this sort of project I usually drive the screws with a hex-shaped bit, in an electric drill.  But it's a nuisance to keep switching between the driver bit and a drill bit (for making additional holes) -- so I'll often "start" the screws with this tool, and then drive a bunch of them at once, later on -- using the hex bit.

Because I often use this outdoors, I wanted the tool to be visually distinct from the dirt (and miscellaneous scraps of wood), so I spray-painted it bright green (because I like the color green!).  I achieved the spiral by wrapping the tool with a single spiral of narrow masking tape, with a gap between each loop; spraying the handle; and then (of course) removing the masking tape after the paint had dried.

Here's the wood rack taking shape:

Note that I also put some diagonals on the ends, to keep it from flopping over.  And that I've now oiled the whole structure.

Then I cut a scrap sheet of plywood in half, butted the halves end-to-end, and screwed it to the top of the frame.  By now it was starting to get dark.

This is a "Look!  I finished it on this day!" photo.  It was my last day of vacation, and I really wanted to complete this project -- so I worked right up to dark.

But here's a better photo, which I took this morning before work.

You can't tell from this photo, but the structure is about waist-high for me -- so it's not very large, as firewood shelters go.

It's sitting on top of a (salvaged!) plastic base to a portable basketball pole, which keeps the structure off of the dirt -- which will hopefully prevent rot, and make the structure last longer.

You probably can't tell (unless you click on the photo to enlarge it?), but there's a piece of one-by-four that covers the gap between the two pieces of plywood -- also rubbed with boiled linseed oil.

The black pots hold little stubs of wood that are too short to stack properly.  The three sections of the rack are for wood at different stages of drying:  the far left is for old, dry wood; the middle section is for "kinda dry" wood; and the far right is for "green" wood.  When I use up all the wood in the left-hand section, I'll transfer each section's wood to the left. 

Note that as I re-stack it, the order of the wood (which reflects how long it's been drying) will change.  For example, the wood at the bottom of the middle section will be older than the wood at the top of the middle section; when I re-stack in the section at the left, the less-old wood will end up on the bottom of the "To Use" section, and the older wood will be on the top of the "To Use" section -- i.e. the first to be used! 

This re-ordering doesn't apply to the wood from the "green wood" section -- but by the time it reaches the "To Use" section it'll be so seasoned that it won't really matter.

This project was noteworthy in that, except for the screws, all of the wood was salvaged, not purchased:  the long pieces were from a neighbor's house construction, and the red plywood was from the pallet from our solar panels (which explains the peculiar cut-outs:  I cut the wooden blocks out; I wasn't able to remove the nails).  In fact, the short screws that I used to attach the red plywood were salvaged from a previous wooden outdoor project that started to rot:  I threw away the wood, but kept the screws.


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Sunday, September 25, 2016

How to tighten a hammer head or attach it more firmly

This is yet another one of my small-to-mid-sized projects during my one-week vacation.  I started it on the 21st, and finished today (25 Sept.).

About half a year ago, I bought a few rusty old handtools from an estate sale.  I finally got around to cleaning them up.  This hammer is one of them:  the handle was loose in the head, so someone in the past had driven in a cotter pin to try to tighten it up.

Here's another view:

However, the cotter pin didn't work in tightening the handle: the head was still so loose that I was able to pull the handle out by hand.

The trick to tightening loose handles on hammers is to start with a wooden wedge that runs the "long way" through the eye of the head (you'll see what I mean, in a moment).  Then, if you need additional tightening, you can follow up with metal "hammer wedges" that cut through the initial wooden wedge.

This photo shows the wedge that I created, and the branch that I created it from.  Next to my workbench I keep a bucket of hardwood branch sections, collected from my yard, just for making small dowels and pegs and such.

The wedge is probably about 15 degrees.  I didn't measure it; I just eyeballed it -- and it looked like about half of 30 degrees, so...

Here's a shot of me using sandpaper to smooth the surface of the wedge, so that it won't bind on the way in.  Because the piece is so small, it's actually easier to hold the sheet of sandpaper on a flat piece of wood, and rub the wedge back and forth across it.

Here's a shot of the (now-cleaned!) hammer head, the handle (not yet oiled, because that would mess up the gluing), and the wedge (not yet inserted).  Notice the slot that I had sawn in the handle, to accommodate the wedge.

If you look closely, you can see that I made the tip of the wedge at a coarser angle than the rest of the wedge:  that's for strength; I figured that a very thin tip would be fragile, break off, and ruin the process.

Here's a shot of my driving the glue-y wedge into the slot.  Notice that there's already a split in the handle end, in a direction that isn't useful.  I didn't show this, but I had mostly filled it with a sawdust-and-glue mixture -- and then let it dry for a day or two -- prior to sawing the slot for the wooden wedge.  Also:  I'm using a mallet made by my late (paternal) grandfather.

Here's the hammer, in my workbench vice, after the wedge had been driven in as far as it would comfortably go.

And, here's a shot of the finished product, after I'd trimmed off the excess from the wedge with a handsaw (using masking tape to protect the hammer head from scratches), and then finishing up with a sharp chisel.

And, another view:

The hammer head is on well -- but if it starts to get loose, I'll put a metal wedge where the pink line is.  If I need another wedge, I'll put it where I've drawn the red line.  My local "big box" hardware store sells hammer wedges for about three bucks for a two-pack, in the hammer section.


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How to tighten an adze head

Well, my vacation is nearly done. But here's one of the mini-projects that I accomplished.

I started working on this on Monday, Sept 19th. I finished it today, Sunday the 25th. Some of the intervening time was just spent waiting for the glue to dry -- as you'll see below.

This adze-ish tool -- with a pickaxe at the other end -- is one of the tools I picked up at an estate sale maybe half a year ago.  It's one of the tools that I cleaned up during this vacation, as described in another blog entry.

The metal portion was loose on the handle:  not enough to fall off, but certainly enough to make it annoying when trying to use the tool.

The first photo shows the tool in my workbench's vice.  I've used a chisel to create a groove to receive a wooden wedge, which will spread the end of the wooden handle and jam it against the inside of the "eye" of the tool's head.

The next photo shows the wedge that I created, and the branch that I created it from.  Next to my workbench I keep a bucket of hardwood branch sections, collected from my yard, just for making small dowels and pegs and such.

The wedge is probably about 15 degrees.  I didn't measure it; I just eyeballed it -- and it looked like about half of 30 degrees, so...

Here's a shot of me using sandpaper to smooth the surface of the wedge, so that it won't bind on the way in.  Because the piece is so small, it's actually easier to hold the sheet of sandpaper on a flat piece of wood, and rub the wedge back and forth across it.

Here's the tool, back in the vice.  The green towel isn't part of this process:  it's just there to make the photo clearer, by obscuring some of the clutter on the workbench.

Unfortunately, you can't tell -- but I made the tip of the wedge at a coarser angle than the rest of the wedge:  that's for strength; I figured that a very thin tip would be fragile, break off, and ruin the process.

Another shot, prior to my driving it in with a wooden mallet.  Lookit the glue!!!

And:  a few days later, after the glue has dried.  I've cut off the excess from the wedge; sanded it a little; used the bench grinder's wire wheel to clean the rust off the metal; WD-40'd the metal; and oiled the handle (including the "eye") with a a 50-50 mixture of boiled linseed oil and methyl alcohol (as a thinner). 

The handle is now quite snug in the eye of the tool.  However, if it becomes loose, I can tighten it up by driving a metal "hammer head" wedge into the eye, as indicated by the red line. Because the initial wedge is made of wood, I can drive the subsequent metal wedge through the initial wedge.

And if it loosens again, I can drive another metal wedge where the green line is.


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Tool rehab

Well, tonight is my last day before returning to work.  I had a good -- and productive -- week off:  I spent it doing things from my "To Do" list -- my fun "To Do" list, not the "Ought To/Responsibility" list.  Well, except for doing laundry, doing some dishes, and feeding the kids.

I had a bunch of rusty tools that I'd picked up at an estate sale maybe a year ago.  I started cleaning them up on Weds, 9/21.  Tonight is Sunday, 9/25, and I've completed the process.

Usually I'll soak rusty metal in white vinegar for a few days, then use a wire bush (a "hand" brush, not a wire wheel) to remove the loosened rust and crud.  But this time most of the items were attached to wooden handles -- so I thought I'd try a different approach.

Most of the time for this project was taken by using the wire wheel on my bench grinder to remove all the rust.  Once I'd done that, the faster component was wiping the wooden handles with my 50-50 mix of boiled linseed oil and methyl alcohol (as a thinner).

Here's my setup, under the carport.  The wooden table thing is something I built a few years ago:  it's kind of a portable, mini-workbench, that I use a lot.

I don't set up the grinder in my workshop, because (a) I don't have the room (it's small, and currently crowded and messy), and (b) I don't want to spray rust and crud all over.

After a fair number of (meditative) hours spent grinding rust and crud off, over the course of a few days -- interspersed with other projects -- here are the results:  I tried to arrange them in the same order as on the plank in the earlier photo.  (The pruning shears, at the bottom of the photo, was a late addition.)

After grinding off the rust from each item with the wire brush, I sprayed the metal section with WD-40 before it had a chance to re-rust.

I could've sanded back the wooden handles, prior to oiling them -- but I wanted to retain their well-used, "found in an old barn" look.

The top three items are lathe tools for woodworking -- clearly "user-made".  One of these days I'll actually purchase a lathe...

The thing that's just above the handplane blade is a narrow trowel:  bad angle; it doesn't show up very well in this photo.

Note that the hammer to the right now has its handle:  in the original photo it did not.  The re-handling is the subject of another blog entry.


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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Using headphones as microphones

One of the things I did during my week's vacation is I took three sets of earbuds and two inexpensive headphones and attempted to re-purpose them as microphones.  I had collected them over the last few months, for this purpose.

Two of the sets of earbuds didn't work (due to a puppy's gnawing); one set of earbuds was uncomfortable for the kids; and the two headphones simply didn't work.

Most headphones and speakers work on the same principle as dynamic (moving-coil) microphones -- but in an opposite direction: headphones turn electricity into vibrating air; whereas microphones turn vibrating air into electricity. So, in a pinch you can use headphones and speakers as (somewhat inefficient) microphones.

The top photo shows the headphones that I tested, and two of the three sets of earbuds.  I later found a third set of earbuds on my desk, which I had tossed there a few weeks earlier with the same intent of possibly re-purposing them as a microphone.

This next photo is of the two blue earbuds -- including the one that I found after I'd done my test -- that didn't work.  Both of the earbuds that did not work as microphones were on the right-hand side.  The left-hand side for both of these had been torn off by our puppy.

That is:  if the puppy had torn off the right-side earbuds, and retained the left side -- then they probably would've worked as microphones.

I believe that the left-side earbuds (and headphone speakers) work as microphones is because of how the "one-eighths-inch to one-quarter-inch adaptor plug" will "ground" the plug -- i.e. combines the "ring" signal with the other portion of the plug.

And, this photo shows the finalists in this process:  the two "real" headphones, plus the black "they work, but they're uncomfortable to wear" earbuds.  All of them actually worked as microphones.  So, three out of five isn't too bad. 

I've posted a YouTube video below, that demonstrates the sound quality from these three "microphones".  I used two signal sources: my voice, and a harmonica.

If I'd thought further, I would've also compared these to a "real" microphone, like a Shure SM57. Ah well.

The blue headphones seemed to be open-backed -- so on the voice test I also spoke into the back. Also notice that I often tried the mics from two positions: about six inches, and about a foot. Because I recorded these during my kids' piano lessons (occurring in the adjacent room), there's noticeably more "spill" with the more distant micing -- as one would expect.

I edited the audio clips together in Audacity (freeware multitrack audio software), and added some simple compression and normalization, just to make the various sound clips comparable and of similar volume. No equalization or other effects have been added.

So:  pretty decent for "free" microphones. 


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Trick for sprouting avocado pits

I'm near the end of a week's vacation, so I'm logging all the little projects that I manage to knock off.

This is one that I've been thinking about for a few days.  Over the last few weeks I've accumulated five or six avocado pits.  I wanted to plant them, but wasn't sure how to keep them moist so that they would sprout.

My solution was to wrap each one in a single layer of newspaper, kind of like a Hershey's Kiss, and place them in holes around the perimeter of a large pot.  I then twisted additional sheets of newspaper to each "stem", and placed the other end in an empty yogurt tub.

These long "ropes" serve as wicks to keep the avocado pits moist:  when I fill the yogurt tub with water, the water slowly gets wicked down to the newspaper surrounding the pits.

It takes about a day for the water in the yogurt tub to get fully drained -- and the soil seems to be consistently moist.

The single layer of (wet!) paper seems like it should be thin enough for the sprouts and roots to break through.

Of course, this is all theoretical:  in principle it should work.  We'll see if anything actually sprouts.

I should note that I'm in the southern hemisphere (Australia), so it's actually springtime here.

I presume that I'll know in a few weeks whether this works.


Update:  6 Oct 2016 -- Nothing yet. 

Update:  11 Oct 2016 -- It's late spring for us, so during the day the paper "wicks" dry out midway through their length, rather than carrying the water to the dirt.  However, when I come out in the morning the wicks are wet all the way to the dirt, and the dirt is indeed damp. // If I did this again, I would roll the wicks so that they' have a thicker cross-section, so that the core would stay damp (and transmit the moisture all day):  at the moment they're flat, folded-over strips, which doesn't seem to be thick enough.  // No sprouting yet.

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Chicken feeder lid

I'm on a week's vacation, so I'm logging all the different little projects and things I've accomplished.

For the last few weeks I've noticed that the chicken food is disappearing from their hopper faster than it used to.  Or at least it seems that way.  I'm wondering if a mouse or rat is getting in there and having dinner.

The land that our house is on had a lot of miscellaneous from my wife's grandad, who used to collect "useful" things.  Among other things were some stump caps.

Stump caps were used in a traditional form of housing around here:  they used to build wooden houses that were elevated up on knee-high or waist-high "stumps" -- basically, wooding pilings.  Elevating the houses allowed cool air to pass under the house.  However, the termites would sometimes attack the stumps.  To prevent the termites from getting into the framework of the house, stump caps -- which look like large pie tins -- would be placed between the stumps and the frame of the house.  This would block the termites from the wooden framework.

So, today I took one of the stump caps; crudely punched a long-ish hole in it -- and placed it over the feed hopper. 

We'll see if it prevents any food theft.


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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Made a drumstick holder

This blog entry is part of a series where I document to myself "Yes -- I really did accomplish things this vacation!"

Some people like to go on trips during their vacations, to get away from their real life.  I prefer the opposite:  I like to putter around the house and yard, getting things done (from my "To Do" list).

The story behind this project is that I hate to see perfectly good raw materials get thrown away.  A house down the block from the kids' school was having its wooden porch refurbished, and there were a few useful-looking pieces of wood in the dumpster.

I pondered it for a few days, then grabbed two brick-sized pieces after dropping off my kids -- figuring that I'd pick up some more when I got the kids after school.  Unfortunately, when I returned that afternoon -- the dumpster was gone!!!

So, I mostly missed out.  But, at least I got these two pieces of hardwood (the pen is a size reference):
As you can see, they were "mostly painted" white.  I wrote the date of acquisition, and the location, on the pieces of wood -- as I typically do -- but I didn't know specifically what I would do with them.

And then, sometime between then and my week's vacation, I decided:  drumstick holders!

You see, I have a few different pairs of drumsticks, of different weights,  thicknesses and tips.
But they're not stored in an organized way -- so I'm often trying to find the other half of a pair:  the drumstick holder would keep them organized and accessible.

I examined the ends of the wooden blocks, and decided that I'd keep the ends as there were -- just for character.  However, because the ends weren't symmetrical, I wanted the ends on the completed project to be in a certain orientation.  So, decided which end was "up", and indicated this with a piece of masking tape.  (No photo.)

I then cleaned up the sides and the bottom with a handplane (a scrub plane for rapid stock removal, followed by a smoothing plane) -- but I left the top painted.  (No photo.)

I then used a marking gauge to define the rows, and a trysquare and dividers to define the columns.  I then used a bradawl (shown) to start the holes.

I tested the holes based on one of the drumsticks -- more on this later -- and used one of my hand augers to make the holes.  The drumstick holder shown above is for the "regular-sized" drumsticks:  I made another one (shown later) for the unusually-sized drumsticks.

Between the two sets of drumstick holders, I got to use all three of my augers (see below).  (Correction:  I have a fourth one that's remarkably wide -- but it's not yet mounted to a handle.)  I've only owned the one in the middle for about a month, and hadn't yet used it:  I picked it up at an antique shop for a very good price, and I knew that it was a size I didn't yet have.  The other two I've had for about ten years, and (I'm pretty sure) haven't used on any "real" project -- until now.

You can't quite tell in this photo, but the middle auger -- the one I recently picked up -- has a smoothed-out branch as its handle.  I liked its rustic-ness:  the two ends are of slightly different length, and the handle has a slight waviness to it.  It has character. 

As it so happened, the auger that I picked up recently was the one that I used the most for this project: seven pairs of holes, rather than the one pair each for the other two augers.

The newer auger needed a little bit of sharpening with a file, but was otherwise in usable condition.  I'll discuss the handle modifications in a moment.

Yeah, I could've used a spade bit.  But using the hand augers was more interesting.  And I got to learn something:  I improved my skills and refined my technique along the way.

Here's the first two holes, using  the new auger.

Here's another shot, where you can see my green "depth indicator" masking tape -- to make the holes all the same depth.  Notice, however, the squared-off ends of the auger's wooden handle.


But, even after I brush away the shavings, some wood was still hanging on:  because the auger bit didn't have "spurs" to slice the surface of the wood, there were still some pieces at the opening of the hole that were still connected.  This also caused some tear-out around some of the holes, which I'll discuss later.

Cleaning up the surface with a sharp chisel.  This is my "go to" chisel, which covers about 98% of my chisel needs.

Here's the surface, cleaned up a bit.

It was about this point that the square-ish ends on the handle were starting to bother me:  every time I made a turn, the corner of the handle -- much like a crisp end of a large dowel -- would dig into my hand.  So, I decided to round off the end, to make it more comfortable.

Here's my go-to rasp:  not fancy (plastic handle!) -- but it works.  I wrapped a rag around the other end, so that it wouldn't chew up my fingers or cut me (I've done that before!).

Here's the (mostly) rounded-off ends.  I then made the curve of the ends a little more symmetrical, and smoothed off the surface a bit with a coarse file.

Here's me using my second-largest auger on the companion "drumstick holder".  My largest auger would have been far too big for the job -- and I still need to figure out how to mount it onto a handle.

And, the mid-sized auger.

Here's the finished products -- after two coats of Danish oil.  If you enlarge the photo you'll be able to see some tear-out (running "with the grain") around the holes.  I could've prevented that by clamping a sacrificial thin board on top of the "hole-making" surface, doing my layout on that, and drilling through that board into the "real" workpiece below.  But I figured that doing that was more work than this project deserved:  it's a "functional" piece, not a "beauty" piece.

As usual, I wrote the source of the wood (date and location), the date I finished it, and signed my work.  I've made the photo deliberately blurry.

And here's the two drumstick holders in action -- kind of.

To the left is the "atypical-sized" drumsticks:  some tympani-ish beaters; a pair that my late paternal grandfather made for me on his lathe; and a massive taiko-style pair that I made out of large hadwood dowel that I picked up at the hardware store (but I rounded the ends a bit, to minimize the denting of my drum heads).

On the right is the "typical-sized" drumsticks, as I had intended to use it:  pointy-end up.  This would allow me to visually select among the different tips (e.g. nylon vs. wooden; acorn versus barrel).

But -- it turns out that the "example" drumstick I had grabbed, when choosing the auger size to drill the holes, was slightly narrower than some of the others.  So not all of my "regular"-sized drumsticks would fit.  Ah well.

So, I ended up using them tip-down -- which means that I can grab them by the handle, not the tip.  And I guess it'll just be trial-and-error in figuring out which pair is which.

And, that's the end.  :)


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