2009 Corner Desk Build

I’ve made a new desk, and man was it a lot of work (2-3 weeks). I want to point out some things…

  1. The monitors raise and lower both manually and through a motorized system. My dad was a big help with the motor system.
  2. I wanted it to be easily portable, so everything is “pinned” together with 1/4″ stainless rods (including the compartments).
  3. The shelves are adjustable.
  4. Four 40mm fans run along the right compartment for cooling the electronics. Also, a 120mm fan cools the PS3 from the back.
  5. The keyboard tray can go up and down, swivel left and right, tilt up and down, and move in and out.
  6. The black paint finish isn’t quite complete. Eventually I will need to sand it, wax it, and buff it up to a mirror finish.
  7. Everything is made of 3/4″ and 1/2″ mdf, and the trim is solid oak. The front curve was a crap load of work for a noob like me (see worklog).

Continue reading 2009 Corner Desk Build

The Garage

[I wrote the following descriptive essay for English 199 and received a decent grade, so I’m going to share it with whoever (aka no one)  wants to read it. Please criticize it in the comments if you do read it!]

The Garage

It’s a regular occurrence; I’m sitting at my desk when an idea pops into my head.  It’s something I can make, I’m sure of it. The idea could be anything: a picture frame for a photo nestled under some loose papers, a TV wall-mount to free up some precious desk space, or perhaps just a larger desk. Once the idea comes, I must attempt to create it. Without a second thought I head outside towards the garage.

Made of white cinder block and protected with steel bars on all of the windows, from the outside peering in, some may think the garage is a small prison. Even with a key, getting inside isn’t entirely effortless. Considerable force must be applied to the key in a full rotation, almost requiring a full-body effort. Sometimes I contemplate whether the key will finally snap as I hear the pins inside the lock reluctantly screech into position.  Surprisingly, after being unlocked, the heavy steel door gracefully opens to reveal the treasures inside. Tools, lots of tools, running wall to wall and rising ten feet high. The inside is still a bit dark until I flip the fluorescent lights on; they flicker quickly for a few seconds before going fully bright to expose dust particles glistening down from the ceiling. Usually there are tools scattered across the workbench alongside a project waiting to be finished. On the floor, sawdust, a seemingly useless scrap that is now absorbing a spill from the last oil change. At the far end of the garage where the lighting is dim lies the excess wood and steel from past projects. They are more scraps which will be given a purpose, eventually.

With a blueprint in mind, I head towards the scrap materials. I can usually find something that fits the build when I quickly scan through the pile. The roughly cut mahogany contrasts sharply against the black, slender lengths of steel. Occasionally what I need from the pile is simple, like a small block of walnut I used to make a pen holder, or a piece of oak I found to make a cane for my grandfather. Eagerly, I push and pull the material around. The cold metal shrills loudly against the bare concrete; meanwhile, dreary thuds from the large pieces of wood echo throughout the rest of the garage. When I have the material I am looking for in my hand, I have my next project. After a quick sketch in a curled notepad on the workbench, and jotting down some rough measurements along the way, it’s time to start building.

While I am woodworking, sawdust may muster bitterly under my breath as I tear through a length of oak. At any rate, when the dust settles, the air is flooded with the scent of an entire forest. The atmosphere is quite different when working with steel. Racing through a piece of flat iron with the angle grinder can leave a magnificent waterfall of sparks scattering off nearby walls like schooling fish in the ocean. Unfortunately, after a few hours of metal fabrication, my throat is dry, as if sandpaper has been rubbed across my larynx. The choking smoke rising from the welding torch is nauseating at best, but propping the door open in the summer months helps. Any amount of construction in the garage will take its toll on me; cuts, scrapes, or burns are inevitable, and yet, I hardly notice them while I work. As I move back and forth between work areas, I fall into a trance. I can fondly remember one of my first experiences in the garage. My father, being the father he is, decided to show me how to weld. I was four years old. I slid  the thick leather gloves on which extended up to my shoulders, and my father placed the loose fitting welding helmet on my head. The next thing I knew, I was poking the rod into a chunk of iron under his guidance. Despite all precautions, a large spark managed to travel down one of the gloves and burned my fingertip. It didn’t hurt. I was fairly impressed with myself, but my mother didn’t share the same feelings.

My thoughts are usually quite clear while I am in the garage. For the most part I am not thinking about the actual project at hand, rather the reaction I will get when it is done. That is what keeps me going, and pushes me to make it just right. Sometimes the project is difficult to make, and if I struggle to figure out a way to do it, my thoughts about anything else collapse. Once I begin to think about the project and nothing else, I get tired and frustrated. It’s time to take a break. Sometimes a few weeks go by before I even want to look at what I was working on, but I eventually do. It needs to be finished. Eventually I figure out what to do. The finishing touches are what takes the longest. I circle the shop floor, staring from different angles, trying to catch a blunder someone else might see. Regularly,  I claim the project to be finished, but then a few hours later my dad will walk in to find me re-sanding down a corner.

After countless hours, I am satisfied with what I have created. I stare upon it for some time. I made it, and the feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming. At last, I flick the lights off and head back towards the house under the moonlight, creation at hand.

Grandma’s “Card”

Every year for the past couple of years I have made my Grandma a Christmas card. She always leaves the card on display pretty much all year round. It’s usually based around something she enjoys; birds, figure skating, or her dog. Every year it seems to get a little bigger and a little more non-cardlike. This year I just could not think of what to make. I wanted to make something special since she recently suffered from a stroke and has been experiencing a lot of anguish. I sat a brainstormed for a long time. At around 10 PM the night before I was to give it to her, I got an idea in my head. It was going to be a lot of work, and there was a pretty high chance it would just fail entirely. Four or five hours of speedy work later, this was the result:

To explain things a little, I made the frame and then tried to make a 3-dimensional scene inside of it (with lighting in the background). The frame is made out of oak, which I cut from a plank laying around the garage. I cut an eighth inch slit around the inside of the frame for the glass to sit in. I stole the glass from an old dollarstore document frame and cut it to fit inside the oak slit. I had no idea what would be going inside the frame yet; I would worry about it while that while the wood glue was drying. So I went onto the computer and started making something with vectors. I knew I wanted a mountain scene. After a while of playing around, I had something I was happy with. Silhouettes of all the stuff I know my Grandma enjoys, in a night scene which I tried to make look like the foothills of Alberta. I printed the foreground and background images I made, and cut them to shape with scissors. Now I was onto the final step, the lighting. All I had was green LED’s. I would have preferred a variety colors, but I had to make do with what I had. I didn’t even have resistors, but I believe the LED’s were each 3V, so I soldered two of them in parallel with two AA batteries. I found a little toggle switch and mounted it to the backing of the frame. I hot-glued everything down inside so nothing could jiggle around, and closed it all up. It was complete.

I don’t really like how it looks with the lights on, but whatever, at least it’s optional.

I’m not sure what’s up with my terrible pictures. It must’ve been the lack of sleep.

Video Equipment Stand

video equipment stand 9A few weeks ago my dad’s friend asked me if I could make him a small compact stand that could house his satellite video equipment for his semi-trailer truck. It sounded like a fairly intriguing little project to me. Here is some pics from the beginning to the final product:

The material I plan to work with in my messy garage.

An angle grinder with a zip disk is one of the most satisfying tools for me. It’s so versatile when working with metal.

By clamping a scrap piece of angle iron onto the side needing protection, I am able to cut a very straight line with the cutting disk on the angle grinder.

All the pieces for the two removable trays before I begin welding.

The trays above are made to the exact dimensions of the satellite equipment. I’m not a huge fan of doing it that way, (what if something is replaced?) but the main purpose of this rack was to be as compact and sturdy as possible, and this is what I was asked to do.

I cut the middle out to reduce the weight, and as a bonus the equipment will cool better.

A big jump ahead; here is the final stand. It might be hard to tell but there is two removable racks that are fastened by thumb screws on the right side. The top mesh tray is for random stuff like remote controls, cables and whatever. The left-most compartment is for DVD’s (see last picture).

It ended up being more work than I was expecting. One thing that took longer than anticipated was the top mesh tray. I just couldn’t think of how to make it sturdy and light at the same time. I pop-riveted most of the mesh onto the steel, except around the DVD compartment where I threaded small screws in. A lot of welding rods and burnt fingers went into this very little project.

56′ Ford F-100 Savage Body

Yesterday I bought a 1956 Ford F-100 body for my Savage RC truck. It came clear and uncut, so I had the task of painting, cutting the edges/holes, and applying a few stickers. Click more for pics. It looks pretty classy. I’m very pleased with how it turned out.

Painting was pretty easy, I just had to make sure I had the appropriate areas taped off. The paint is on the inside of the plastic, that way it wont scratch off.  Cutting it was a lot harder than I expected; I used a mixture of razor blades, heavy duty scissors, and a dremel tool to cut it. I think if I do another body ever, I will cut it before I apply the paint because I don’t want to risk scratching it.

Fixing My Mouse

I’ve owned the Microsoft|Razer Habu gaming mouse for about two years now. When I first received it, I discovered the firmware that shipped on the mouse was semi-corrupt and the Habu configurator would not recognize it. I had to flash it with a firmware from a different mouse with different software before I could change any of the DPI settings. It was a huge pain to say the least. Then, last year the USB cable frayed at the end that connects to the mouse and it would randomly disconnect when I moved. I fixed that. Soon after that the mouse began to double click when I would only be doing single clicks. After a quick Google search it seemed as though a lot of people had this issue. I took the mouse apart and cleaned the button mechanism with a contact cleaner. That did the trick. About five months ago the USB cable began to fray again, this time at the other end with the USB plug. About a month ago the ‘back’ button also began to double click when I would single click. Tonight I decided to fix these last few problems.

I ‘jimmied’ the cable like that with a tie-wrap back in university because I didn’t have time to properly fix it. Wrapping it like that basically prevented the frayed part from breaking any further.

This is the end that is inside the Habu. This is the part I fixed last year. I just cut the frayed part off and soldered it back together. That piece of rubber to the left was the trickiest part. It was molded onto the old broken part of the cable, so I carefully cut it off with a razor blade and then slid it back onto the fresh cable.

I took a USB cable from an old mp3 player with some proprietary end and cut it off. I soldered it back onto the Habu’s internal plug as you can see in the picture above. That clear plastic covering on the wires is heat-shrink. It works just as it sounds; slide it over exposed cable, heat it up, and it shrinks.

The new USB cable is slightly thicker than the old one, so that plastic rubber doesn’t fit completely around it but oh well.

I also fixed the ‘back’ button afterwords. I’ve invested so much time into this mouse I am rather attached to it. I’m looking for a new mouse but nothing seems worthy. I wouldn’t mind if someone gave me a Razer Mamba though.

The sad thing is, it took me far longer to make this post than it did to fix the mouse.

Mom’s Kitchen Renovation

About a month ago my mom flew to Vancouver to visit her terminally ill sister who has since passed away.  During this time, it was an opportunity for me to add a new face to her kitchen. It was quite a bit of work, probably about 40-50hours, but I am so glad I did it. I have to give a HUGE thanks to Benson, who on the day before my mom came home, helped me from 9AM to 3:30AM the next day. It was crazy. Here are some pictures before I started.


That receptacle with the yellow cord hanging out was pretty sketchy. Actually, it was very sketchy. The bottom plastic outlet was completely torn off from the refrigerator which has no wiggle room in that corner. It was the bare metal with live power running. I hate going to the basement, so [idiotically] I replaced the plug with the power still on (doin’ it live!).  I managed to avoid a shock.

This tall cupboard was added a few years ago. I filled in that big space so it doesn’t look disjointed from the wall.

I scraped the stippling stuff off the ceiling. In this picture I am about 3/4 done. It was a pain in the bum, by the time I was done I was covered with a solid layer of dust and the entire kitchen was covered with little stipple rocks.

There was mac-tac/wallpaper all over these cupboards. The previous owners were too lazy to take the old stuff off when they put new on, so there was at least 3-4 layers in all the cupboards and drawers. When I finally got it all off, it revealed poor carpentry and some hella bad water damage.

I eventually filled all these little cracks in and sanded off the booger looking glue.

One morning when I went to her house around 7AM I seen these flowers in her yard and thought they were picture worthy.

More water damage in the cupboards.

To cover it up, and seal it off forever, I decided tiling this area would be the easiest and best looking way to fix the issue.

The area below the cupboard (above the counter top) was already tiled. I tiled the area inside the cupboard.

Here is Benson working on the floor after we painted the primer and final coat on the kitchen. The flooring underneath the old linoleum was in very poor condition, so I decided it would be best to leave the lino on and use a belt sander to rough it up before we stuck down the new tiles. In the end it worked out very well.

Here is me working on the final piece of the floor. It was about 3AM at this point. A few days after this I was in severe pain with a sore back. Now I see why.

Here is the kitchen in its completed form. I took all the cupboard doors and drawers home so I could router a new edge on them. The old edge was was a bumpy and square, so I rounded it off with a table router. I also put new handles on. I used all the old hinges, but I painted them black to match the handles.

I thought it would look nice if I used black receptacles and light switches to match the black and white theme, you can see one of them here. It’s crooked in this picture but I fixed that.

I painted the heat register black. It used to be a rusted brown register with some calcium on it for some weird reason. To get the calcium off I let it sit in a container of diluted hydrochloric acid.

This has nothing to do with the renovation but it’s a table I made for my mom last year and I want to show it off =P. Also, she really needs to get some new chairs.

I put new taps on and re-did some of the plumbing under the sink. The old taps were leaky.

I still haven’t put the quarter-round baseboard on to cover the edge of the flooring but I’ll do that some time.

The kitchen doesn’t look like complete garbage anymore so I am happy.

2009 Computer Build

A few weeks ago I finally ordered the parts to build a new desktop computer. Here is the specs:
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550 Quad Core 2.83GHZ 1333FSB 12MB
Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 280 Superclocked 621MHZ 1024MB 2.268GHZ GDDR3
Power Supply: Corsair TX750W 750W ATX 12V 60A Active PFC 140MM Fan
Memory: OCZ Gold 6GB DDR3 3X2GB DDR3-1600 PC3-12800 CL 8-8-8-24 Triple Channel
Hard Drive: Western Digital WD1001FALS Caviar Black 1TB SATA2 7200RPM 4.2MS 32MB 3.5IN
Motherboard: ASUS P5Q3 P45 DDR3 3XPCI-E1 SATA RAID eSATA GBLAN Audio 1394A
Case: Antec 300 ATX 3X5.25 6X3.5INT Front USB & Audio
Monitor x2: Samsung SyncMaster 2343BWX 23IN 2048X1152 5ms 20000:1DC
Fans: Arctic Cooling Arctic Fan PWM 120MM 400-1500RPM 56.3CFM FDB 3/4PIN Speed Controller
TV Tuner: Hauppauge WinTV HVR-1600 MPEG NTSC ATSC QAM W/ Remote & IR Receiver

So far it has been running perfectly on Windows 7 Beta build 7264. Startup and shutdown speeds are around 20-30 seconds. I haven’t done any heavy “processing” yet, but I’ll just say the q9550 can extract a WinRAR archive much faster than my old desktop’s AMD 3500+. The “Windows Experience Index” rates my computer a 5.9 (not very good),  which is determined by the lowest subscore; in this case the Western Digital 1TB HDD. This makes me slightly sad, I bought the drive because it was touted as “the fastest 7200 rpm drive” a couple months ago.  All other major components were rated 7.3.

The Hauppauge TV tuner is pretty good. I spent about 3 hours making new cable wires all over my house (we have kind of a crazy setup with amplifiers and splitters and signal combiners) so that I could finally get a crisp image on the tuner. It’s not perfect though, my actual TV can pick up a much cleaner picture and sound, but this is adequate. The packaged WinTV feels like out dated piece of junk software, but luckily Windows Media Center does the trick for me. Now if only there was something good to watch on TV.

I have had some fun gaming thanks to the gtx280. I am about halfway through the Call of Duty 4 campaign. I can run the game on maximum settings at 2048×1150 resolution, and I get around 140fps on average. I gave FEAR 2 a try, and I can run this game on maximum settings also. I’m not sure of the fps rate but it’s darn smooth. I was expecting the game to flat out suck, but it’s actually pretty fun. Somehow, they still manage to scare the hell out of me every single time the creepy Grudge girl pops out. I also tried out Crysis Warhead. I’m not sure what to think of this game. I can run it on *almost* max settings and I get around 30 fps. The game looks pretty good, but nothing special. The single player game play is pretty intense but I’ve only just started playing. My favorite game right now is actually GRID, the racing game by CodeMasters. The game looks very good, and it runs smooth on maximum settings. I use an Xbox 360 controller to drive, it works well.

Enough with writing, I don’t feel like talking too much about it. It’s a computer. It does things computers do. We all know what new computers are like.

Here is a picture of my friend Benson playing on my old setup with my laptop. At this point I had given my old main computer to my dad, all I had was my laptop and a monitor for the PS3 (poor me..).

And here is my new comp all set up with my cleaner than usual room.

The pictures are kind of blurry because I took most of them without flash, I wanted to capture the color of my room.

I still have to post about:

-A kitchen renovation I did for my mom
-Minor reviews for some of these comp parts
-Another hiking trip in Waterton
-A project I am working on in the garage.

Hopefully they wont be as poorly done as this post. I’m just not motivated right now.

An Awesome Carpentry Tool!

Edit: Turns out I’m the only person ever not to have heard of a biscuit jointer. You should read on and comment on my noobish-ness anyway.

At first this post was supposed to be a short “I love this tool”, but it kind of turned into a tutorial. You may have heard of this tool, and know everything there is to know about it, in which case, I’m wasting your time.

Today I started on my Dad’s kitchen renovation. After ripping off the old arborite, trim and tiling, it was time to make some forward progress.
First on the list was to apply the 3/4″ maple trim to the edge.

My Dad’s friend, who is a professional carpenter, recommended I use a biscuit jointer to attach the trim. I have never in my life heard of it before, but I decided to give it a shot. Turns out it’s absolutely awesome!


(Avoiding all edibility jokes) A biscuit is a small piece of wood about 1/8 ” thick of varying width/length.
Regarding the tool itself, a small (4″) blade is mounted horizontally inside the biscuit jointer. When pressure is applied to the front edge/guide, the blade glides out and is exposed to the material. Before starting, it must be adjusted to the proper depth and height for the material. In this case, the counter top is 3/4″ thick, so the jointer is set up to penetrate at the midpoint; 3/8″. The penetration depth must be set up for slightly more than half the width of the biscuits being used. In this case the depth was set to about 1/2″. Now I know this probably sounds like nonsense, it will make sense in a minute.
A shot of the trim-less counter top:


bisquit5Once the length of maple was cut to shape, it was time to prep for the jointer. There is an easy way of determining where both pieces of wood should be jointed. Holding the maple carefully in place, and drawing a small pencil line (5″ away from the edge) across both pieces gives an exact point where the jointer should be used on both sides. Subsequent pencil marks were made approx. 10″ apart down the length of wood.


I applied the jointer to the counter top. It was convenient that the person who used the tool previously left a red mark at the center, where max. depth of the blade occurs.bisquit6

Using the jointer is actually extremely simple. Holding the tool off the wood, turn it on. Once it gets up to speed in about half a second, slowly and flushly (I don’t think that is a word, but I like it) set the guide onto the table, and then push in a forward motion so the blade enters the material. Then pull it out and do the next joint, or turn it off. Repeat on the other piece of wood.

bisquit7The result is a nice little slit. It will hold half of the biscuit.





I found it easiest to apply the wood glue to the maple, including inside of the slits, then gently tapping the biscuits into their slits with a rubber mallet (doing it on the fixed counter top would cause the glue to run). Apply glue to the rest of the biscuit and quickly apply the entire assembly to the counter.


I was aware of other methods of jointing such as drilling holes and using wooden dowel, but I always find those methods very”finicky”, especially when all I need precision. One screw up and you have to drill an entire series of new holes. With this method, the two materials will ALWAYS be jointed perfectly flush to each other, and there is just the right amount of horizontal play to get things aligned perfectly with a mallet.

And the result is a nail-less, perfectly flush trim that is incredibly solid (much stronger than if it were applied using nails or screws).


And now to take a break and drink a coke before applying the arborite. I wish I could learn how to pour pop correctly.