Backyard controller requirements…

We’re in the process of doing some new landscaping in our back yard, and that involves a small fountain and some landscape lighting. Which of course brings up the question obvious question:

How are you going to control the fountain and the lighting?

Here are some initial requirements:

  1. There are three separate circuits of control; one for the fountain, one for the landscape lighting in the main beds, and one for the new general purpose lighting that will be mounted under the second floor eaves (the current lighting is big floodlights that provide really harsh illumination.
  2. The fountain is 120VAC; the landscape lighting is going to be low voltage.
  3. We need an easy way to turn each of them on and off.
  4. We would like to be able to have them function automatically on some sort of schedule.
  5. It would be nice if the schedule is tied into our light dark cycle automatically; I am far too lazy to remember to adjust them by hand.

The main controller will be based on a – no surprises here – an ESP8266 NodeMCU controller running a hacked-up variant of my animation software. The landscape lighting is going to be LED, which gives the following control requirements:

  • Two AC circuits – one to control the fountain, and one to control the power supply for the landscape lights.
  • Two DC circuits to control the two landscape light circuits independently.

The AC control will be done with a couple of solid state relays that I salvaged out of earlier holiday light projects. The DC control will be done with some nice power mosfets. I should be able to drive both directly from the controller.

All of this needs to fit in one half of an outlet box. I’m not sure the form factor; I’m thinking that I’m going to 3D print a box for the electronics, but how it fits into the duplex box is tbd. I *might* put override switches on the box so that if you want to you can just press a button to turn the lights on for an hour.

And you can take the underground conduit for the pump outlet and the wire for the landscape beds as “already implemented”.

Here are the parts that have already shown up:

A 100 watt 12V DC power supply. It claims to be IP67 waterproof. The “6” means that it is “Dust Tight – No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact”. The “7” means “immersion up to 1m – ingress of water in harmful quantity shall not be possible when the enclosure is immersed in water under defined conditions of pressure and time (up to 1 m of submersion)”.

IP67 rating is impressively good. If it were true, I could drop this puppy into the fountain reservoir and it would keep running…

Alas, it is unlikely to be true; the ratings for much of the stuff out of China are hit and miss, with a bit more on the “miss” side of things. Which is why it’s going to be mounted up under the kitchen deck where water won’t be able to get to it.

I should call these “ubiquitous 10 watt low voltage LED lights”. I have a bunch of these at my cabin, and they are pretty well made; nice heavy aluminum housings to get rid of the heat, decent mounting options. This go about 18’ up in the eaves to project a nice smooth light down on the yard. I bought 4 of them.

Image result for leonlite pathway garden light

These are the pathway lights. I spent a lot of time trolling the chinese marketplace sites (aliexpress/alibaba etc.) looking for some decent lights that were cheap. What I found is that you can either buy high end lights that are $45 each, or you can buy part of an endless supply of really cheap and crappy solar lights, but nothing in between. So I settled for these from Amazon. The Amazon product is not linked because it has changed underneath to some other lights; suffice it to say that I bought 12 of these for about $13 each. These will be spaced out in the beds to make them look all pretty-like.

Astute readers will note that I’m using 36 watts for the pathway lights and 40 watts for the floods (or only 30 if I only put up three). That leaves me about 25 watts to spare. Some may go to accent lights on the north fence, and others might go for some lighting to help get to the hot tub. If I was smart, I would have gone bigger than 100 watts, but that can be replaced if necessary later on.

This is a nice little power MOSFET that will be switching the landscape light circuits. Why this MOSFET? Well, let’s look at the datasheet.

First off, MOSFETS are far nicer to use to switch loads than bipolar transistors. Bipolar transistors have significant downsides; you need quite a bit of current to switch big loads (the overhead lights will be about 3 amps) or you need darlington transistors, and because of the fixed collector/emitter voltage drop, you lose a lot of energy in the transistors, and they get hot.

This little MOSFET will happily switch 44 amps @ 10 volts and 100 degrees C, which is *way* more than it will ever see. It will switch 3 amps with 3 volts on the gate and 11 amps at 3.5 volts; the ESP runs at 3.3 volts so it will be enough to switch the current I need (if I needed big current, I’d need a bipolar driver in front to push the voltage higher). And – like most power MOSFETS – it has very low resistance between the drain and source (8.7 milliOhms with 10 volts on the gate). What that means is that it dissipates almost no energy as heat when on, and I can run it without a heat sink; it will at most get very slightly warm. And it also means I’ll send a full 12 volts out to the lights.

I guess I could also show the big 200’ roll of landscape cable. In the old world of incandescent lights, I would have needed to power these lights with a loop or maybe multiple wiring runs; in this world, the floods have their own power supplies so the voltage to them isn’t critical and the path lights don’t pull enough power to result in much voltage drop.

For the box connections, I’m thinking I will probably go with some molex connectors; that gives me a fairly safe way to hook up the AC to the power source and that way I can disconnect the whole module.


Back yard landscaping

A few years, we paid some landscapers to do some work on our back yard; they did a nice paver patio and walkways, evened out the slope, and re-sodded the now elevated lawn.

There were, however, a few issues.

They used big landscaping blocks for the back of the beds, so there wasn’t much space for the plants in the beds, nor was there enough height to have a reasonable amount of soil, nor was there a barrier to contain the mulch. So, they didn’t work as well as beds.

And all we had was beds, so the yard wasn’t very interesting.

Oh, and we had one more issue; the decent back fence we put up was now about 12” below the current grade, which is just weird.

This summer, we are finally getting around to fixing those issues; this is partly to realize the design we had our landscape architect do, and partly to add in the things that we wanted. I’m too lazy to find the real before pics, so you’ll need to settle for “early in the process pictures”.

IMG_9268

This one shows the lovely back planting bed and the weird fence. Careful observers may be able to see some of the blocks we are using in this picture. The concrete bricks on the back are to deal with a level problem; the pavers are about 2” higher than the row of blocks that make up the back edge, so the 2 1/4” thick grey pavers make up the difference. They will not show in the completed project, so we went with the cheapest ones we could find.

I don’t have any pictures of moving blocks; suffice it to say I moved 700 blocks @ 8 pounds each, or 5600 lbs of blocks from the driveway down the hill into the back. And 240 of the bricks.

Here’s a rough drawing of what we’re aiming for:

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On the left side the big bed will partly cover the corner of the patio and partly be in the dirt. that required me to get a nice line of concrete bricks for the blocks to set on. It looks like this:

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I’ll talk more about how I achieved that soon.

And then it’s merely a matter of laying the blocks out where you want them, and a small bit of block cutting with a 7” angle grinder and a masonry wheel. It looks like this:

IMG_9266

Over to the big bed. We need to cut the grass back a bit for the bricks to fit. The front of the bed is measured from the bricks next to the fence, an old 2×4 is used as an edge, and a line was painted in the grass.

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The project lead spent a few minutes cutting the grass away.

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Then it’s time to set the bricks. The appearance of the final wall will depend highly on how well the bricks are set; the top of each brick needs to be in the right location (x & y), the right height (z), and also be in the right plane left to right and front to back. Here’s how I did it:

IMG_9274

The block on the far left is set to be planar with the patio and the right distance from the extra block on the back. That is one reference.

The second reference is on the right. That stack of two blocks is adjusted so the front face is the right distance from the back block, level to the back block at both the left and right ends. And then the top of the block needs to be planar with the bottom of the level and the long straight edge sitting on the left block. That takes a few iterations to get right, so 10-15 minutes to get a guide block in.

And – because they need to stay in those positions – each block has to be beaten in place with a hammer and a block of wood to compress the soil underneath.

Once the reference is, then it’s merely a matter of placing each block and using the straight edge to make sure it is where it needs to be. Along the whole length most of the bricks are less than 1/16th off on any dimension. Yes, that’s probably overkill, but getting them to 1/16th isn’t much harder than getting them to 1/8th, and it makes the landscape blocks sit much better.

There’s about 40’ of blocks to set along that bed plus another set around the right planter. So, it took quite a bit of time – probably 6 hours just on that part. But, eventually, you get them all done, you can put the landscape block on top, and you end up with a bed that looks like this:

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Which is honestly pretty damn straight.

Which takes us to the right corner bed:

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I’d like you to pay attention to how nicely the back bed and the corner bed blocks are woven together. And I’d like you to ignore the wall next to the fence.

We basically had a problem; the blocks the landscapers put in on the fence side are higher than those along the back, so we needed to adjust. I ended up doing the whole bottom row in mortar so I could deal with the 2” difference across the thickness. It came out okay.

The day after I dog that done, I realized that the right thing to do was to put the blocks on that wall flat without bricks, and then taper from a brick down to nothing along the *back* wall next to the fence. That is the proper thing to do and I have another bag of mortar, but the project lead assures me that nobody will notice once we get the bed planted. If we need to redo it later, it will be simpler.

That’s the current state.

The future will bring soil, drip irrigation (partly in; you can see a connector in the last picture if you look closely), landscape lighting, mulch, and plants.

The fence will be elevated to be a bit higher and moved closer to the blocks. The mysterious art will be installed.

And if you think that this project wouldn’t include some custom electronics, then you don’t know me very well…


Connecting the Eagle Controller to a WS2812 strip

To connect the Eagle controller is simple; there are only three connections to make:

image

The following connections need to be made:

  1. The black wire from the strip (or globe) should be connected to the ground pin
  2. The red wire should be connected to the 5V (5 volt) pin
  3. The data wire (purple from the globe) should be connected to the RX pin.

This will be enough for the controller to work if powered through the USB mini jack. This is fine for testing, but has several drawbacks:

  1. Each WS2812 LED will draw 60 mA of current if it is full bright. There are 33 on the globe, which means that full white will draw 60 * 33 = 1980 mA = 2 amps. The USB connector will not be able to supply that amount of power, so you will not get full brightness.
  2. The Eagle controller has a diode so that external power will not power the USB jack. This means that instead of getting 5V to the strip, you get about 4.4 volts to the strip. It also means that there is a lot of power being dissipated by that diode, and it will get *hot*; hot enough that it or other components on the board may fail.

To avoid these issues and enable full brightness, you need an external 5V power supply that can supply sufficient current. It can be connected to the 5 volt and ground connections.

Using the connection board

Newer versions of the controller ship with a small adapter board to make these connections easier.

image

We will start by soldering a male header to the series of pins on the right side of the controller with the pins sticking out underneath. You can get by with just using pins for 5V, ground, and RX, but there’s no harm in soldering all 8 pins. Here’s how I do it:

image

Place the header pins into a solderless breadboard with the appropriate spacing. We put pins in on both sides so the board will sit level, but we are only going to be soldering the ones at the top.

This step may have been done for testing purposes.

It should look like this when the pins are soldered:

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Now, we need to solder a female header to the adapter board:

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The header should stick out above the board in this orientation. To do the soldering, I balance the board on the female header and use the other strip of female header to hold the board level:

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Solder all 8 pins across the top.

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This is the controller with the male header and the adapter board with the female header. The male header simply plugs into the female header.

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The wires to the LEDs are then connected to the upper 3 terminals on the adapter board, and the 5V power supply is connected to the lower two terminals.

Compact option

If the controller and the adapter are too thick, there is an option that is thinner:

image

In this option, the female header is omitted and the adapter board is soldered directly to the male header pins.

If you are really tight for space, you can solder the male header, remove the black plastic that separates the pins, and then slide the adapter board right next to the controller.




Still Mad about You…

I recently came across a podcast where Paul Riser talked about “Mad About You”, and the obvious question popped into my head.

Would Mad About You hold up?

My beautiful bride and I enjoyed watching it considerably when we it was first on and we were in the first decade (roughly) of our marriage. But I’ve learned to approach things that I’ve liked in the past with care. Sometimes they hold up pretty well, but other times – for various reasons – they don’t hold up at all. Sometimes the memory is much better than the reality.

So, I dusted off the my search engine and found a few episodes to watch. Which gave me enough evidence to approach the wife, and we ended up watching all 7 seasons (on Starz through Amazon, which is the only place we could find it except for some really crappy quality episodes on Youtube).

And the result?

It holds up surprisingly well. Well enough that we were both sad when we finished the last season. Mad About You uniquely captures what it’s like to be in a couple; the way that the two of you are the sum of your strengths, the amount of work it takes to keep that kind of relationship going, and how things can get difficult despite both people trying their best.

And how your partner can simultaneous be somebody you can’t imagine living without and the most annoying person that you know.

There are some issues with the show; the other characters necessarily need to bring conflict in and sometimes are annoying and not all of the story lines are great – especially the cameos that feature notable actors. But they are mostly very good, and to this married-for-a-long-time guy, much of it rings true. And the humor is good.

*Highly* recommended.













Easy PCB stencil creation and alignment

I have a product that I’ve just started selling; it’s a LED globe/Soldering challenge kit that looks like this:

It has a PCB that looks like this:

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For my first run, I needed to make 10 kits, and each of them has 12 of these boards, so that’s 120 boards.

I’ve been hand-soldering the prototypes, but it takes quite a while and my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. I just built a reflow oven based on the controleo3 kit so that I can reflow in cases like this.

Which means I need a stencil. I could easily just order one up, but that means I’m going to have to align this tiny stencil with the board 120 times. Doesn’t sound like fun…

What we need is a way to apply solder paste to a set of boards in one shop and make it repeatable. In the woodworking world, that would call for building a “jig”, or perhaps a “fixture”. Which is what this post is all about; we’re going to use a laser cutter to make all of this oh so much easier.

Teaser photo

Here’s a teaser photo of what we’re going to build:

IMG_9248


Get your board outline and paste mask in SVG format

Since I’m doing my design in Kicad, this was really easy; just go into your design, click the plot button (like you would to create Gerbers), choose the F.Paste and Edge.Cuts layers, and set the plot format to SVG. That’s it.

Well, actually, you should probably modify your paste cutouts to be a bit smaller than they are by default; see this excellent reference for how to do it in Kicad.

If you are using a different package for your design, search online for how to make stencils from it; it will tell you how to export.

Create a combined image in Inkscape

The export give us two separate files; one has solder pads, and the other has the board outline. The first step is to combine them together.

Open both images in Inkscape. Change the color of the edges to blue and the color of the pads to red. We do this so we can control which ones get cut and which ones don’t in the laser cutter.

You do have access to a laser cutter, right? Because if you don’t you’re wasting your time.

Anyway, that gives us two instances of Inkskape:

imageimage

We now need to combine those two together in another image.

Create a new document in Inkscape with File->New. Go to the pads Inkscape version, do a Select All, then a copy. Switch to the new document, choose edit->paste in place.

Repeat the operation with the edge cut Inkscape version.

If your are of true character and have a pure heart, you will get the following:

image

Edit->Select All, then Object->Group. That puts this all together into a single object.

Save the document away with a catchy name like “Combined”. We now have the image for a single board.

Duplication

We now need to create an array of objects; in my case, it’s going to be an array of 4 wide and 3 high. We’ll start with the four:

  • Select the single object.
  • Paste it three time. Line them up approximately. It doesn’t matter like this.
  • Bring up the align and distribute menu. You will never find the icon to do this, so try CTRL-SHIFT-A. Hover around until you find a icon that says “align top edges”, and pick it.
  • Distribute the empty space using “make horizontal gaps between objects equal”.
  • Mine looked like this:

    image

    Those are way too close together for me. Undo the distribute, move one of the edge ones out, and redo the distribution.

    image

    That’s better. The actual spacing is up to you. Group them together and save.

    We’ll do the same thing for the rows; create two copies, align the left edges, and then distribute:

    image


    Save. Looks like we’re done, right? Not quite, there’s one more thing to add:

    Indexing

    This will work fine, but we would have to hand-align the stencil with the boards, and that’s going to be a bit of a pain to do. What I want is a way to make it repeatable.

    The secret is pins. Pins, I say!

    A trip to my local hardware store yielded two 5mm shelf support pins. They are likely longer than I need and I might cut them in half for my usage. They look like this:

    image

    We are going to use them for alignment, which means we’ll need some 5mm holes.

    Flip back to inkscape, and draw a circle. Pick the selection tool, and up under me menu bar, you’ll see the width and the height. Set both to 5mm:

    image

    Set the fill color to full green, set the stroke color to black, flip over to the stroke style, and set the width to 0.1mm. It should look like this:

    image

    Put this one to the upper left of your objects, copy it, and put the second object to the upper right. It should look something like this:

    image

    Note that it doesn’t look that great. That’s okay, we will fix that now.

    Draw a rectangle from one corner of your objects to a point spaced away; this will be the pin location. Something like this:

    image

    Then drag the circle so that it is at the corner:

    image

    I call this “using a gauge block”. Move the rectangle to the other corner and use it to align the other pin as well, and then delete the rectangle. They don’t have to be symmetrical for the technique to work, but I like things to be regular.

    I ended up with this:

    image

    Why so many items and so many colors? We will use them in the cutting process.

    The jig that we created will be a sandwich of different materials; from bottom to top they are:

  • On the bottom will be a piece with only the peg holes cut into it; we will use the black circle outline for those cuts.
  • Next up we will have a piece with the peg holes and the edge cuts, so we will cut both black and blue.
  • Finally, for the top, we will cut the actual stencil; it will have the circles cut for alignment and the solder pads.
  • There’s a bit more complexity than that; I’ll talk about it when I get to the actual cutting.

    Materials…

    The goal of making the fixture is to make laying down the solder paste easy, so the materials need to be chosen carefully.

    My PCB house says that they material they use is 1.6mm thick. I don’t trust material thicknesses, so let’s check:

    IMG_9234

    That’s pretty close, just a 0.04 mm thicker than I expected.

    For the main parts of the fixture, I needed something that was fairly rigid, fairly cheap, and the right thickness. I thought about hardboard but decided to go with what is called “chipboard”; I’m not sure why it is called chipboard because it’s just very compressed cardboard, the kind you find at the back of tablets of paper.

    After looking it locally in vain, I ended up heading to Amazon, where I came across this:

    Grafix Medium Weight Chipboard Sheets, 12-Inch by 12-Inch, Natural, 25-Pack

    Grafix Medium Weight Chipboard Sheets, 12-Inch by 12-Inch, Natural, 25-Pack

    25 sheets was more than I needed by about 24 sheets, but it laser cuts well and is decent for prototypes.

    The thickness isn’t listed in the specification, but that was one of the questions asked, so I looked at the answers and found that is was:

  • 1/16th of an inch at most
  • .057” (1.45mm) (from the manufacturer)
  • Almost exactly 1.5mm per board, determined by measuring a stack
  • 2 mm
  • It’s nice to have some many helpful answers. I could probably make most of those work, so I ordered it. It showed up, and what did I find?

    IMG_9233

    So, the correct answer was “none of the above”. It is notably a full 0.1mm thinner than what the manufacturer says. I’m not sure that just means there is more variance than the manufacturer says or they are just going thinner. Luckily, I can work with that thickness

    For the actual stencil, there were a few choices. You can cut them out of Kapton or out of Mylar. I went looking for Kapton in the common stencil thicknesses of 3 or 5 mil and didn’t find anything that looked good and cheap. So, looking at Mylar led me to Amazon, where I found 4 mil mylar, also in a package of 25.

    What is the mylar thickness?

    IMG_9237

    A quick bit of conversion shows me that the sheet is just over 3.8 mils thick, which is fine.

    Materials in hand, I headed out to my workroom where the glowforge lives to do some cutting.

    Some cutting remarks

    First up was cutting the mylar. The Glowforge has a significant bit of airflow to pull fumes out, and 4 mil mylar would blow right off the crumb tray, so I used ceramic magnets to hold it in place.

    One of the problems with mylar is that when you heat it up it tends to shrink. Since the holes I want to cut are rectangles, the laser head needs to stop at each corner, and at least on the Glowforge, it doesn’t do anything to the beam, so you will get a lot of power right at the corner. Maybe we could break the rectangles into two cuts and carefully manipulate the laser power, but I’m not that confident it would work. If you want to cut it normally, I would recommend trying low speed and very low power.

    Luckily, there’s another option. We can do a raster engrave of the squares and just ablate away all of the material in the middle. This avoids the “stuck in the corner” issue, and since the power level is fairly low and the start and stop is done by turning the laser on and off, there should be fewer issues.

    The right way to do this is to put a piece of paper under the mylar and figuring out what power and speed settings cut through the mylar cleanly but barely touches the paper. I grabbed some settings from the Glowforge Forums and used those.

    For the mylar, we are engraving the red paste mask part of the design and the green circles. The blue board outlines are disabled

    IMG_9228

    This is the first row being engraved. You can see that there is a little sloppiness in the outlines, but in general they are pretty much all the right size. Here’s the final sheet:

    IMG_9229

    The stencils look like what I expected and the 5mm holes look appropriate as well. Maybe this will work after all…

    Next up was cutting the top piece of chipboard with the board outlines. The board outlines are turned on in cut mode, the circles are switched to cut mode, and the paste mask is turned off.

    IMG_9231

    I previously did a proof of concept on this step, so I knew it was going to work. Nice clean cuts.

    And finally, the base cardboard piece. All it has is the circles, so it looks like the above picture with just the circles.

    Assembly

    Sandwich time!

    We start with the base.

    IMG_9239

    And then add in the 5mm pins. This posed a bit of a problem; the pins have a nice chamfer on the end so they didn’t stick into the cardboard very well. I solved this by cutting one of the pins in half with a dremel and an abrasive wheel. I should also note that at 4.96mm, they are just slightly undersized.

    IMG_9240

    So, it turns out that the 5mm holes aren’t quite 5mm in size; they are just a bit smaller so I need to force them in a bit. A friction fit is good, but a forced fit is less good. This is exactly the sort of stuff you learn if you do test cuts. Well, perhaps version #2…

    Adding in the board layer, which aligns quite well with the bottom layer. And the boards fit with just a little bit of movement, which is just about perfect. They are proud (above the surface) by about 0.3mm, which I determined by math. That will probably be okay, but if I want/need it to be closer, I can easily shim it out with some mylar, which at 4 mil is almost exactly 0.1mm thick.

    IMG_9241

    The moment of truth. Adding on the mylar layer. The mylar holes are also too small, perhaps more too small than the cardboard.

    IMG_9242

    What sort of result did we get? It mostly looks pretty good. There is a tiny bit of bowing in the mylar, which I think is due to the “too small holes” part, but it’s probably good enough right now. The alignment is offset a bit but it’s certainly usable:

    image

    Revision #2

    The nice part about building a jig this way is that the materials are cheap and doing another set of cuts doesn’t take much time, so it’s easy to do another revision.

    My first goal was to fix the circles so that they better matched the pins. Since I set them to 5mm explicitly, I figured I’d need to make them a little bit bigger. So, I opened up the design in Inkscape, selected the circles, and what did I find?

    4.95mm

    Huh? I honestly set them to 5mm, but now they are smaller.

    A bit of experimentation revealed what was going on. I am used to working in Visio where the dimensions are inherent properties of the object, so a circle that is 5mm in size is always 5mm in size.

    Inkscape is different. When you way that a circle is 5mm in size, you are setting the outside diameter, and that includes the line width. So, if you set the size of the circle and then change the line width to be thinner, your circle will no longer be 5mm in size. More like 4.95mm.

    Discovering this made me happy, as it meant that the bad fit was from something I understood, not something I did not understand.

    That was a really quick fix, and I cut the new pieces and put the sandwich together. This worked much better; everything went together much easier, and the alignment was better:

    IMG_9245

    Looking closely at the entire stencil, the errors look pretty random. It’s by no means as nice as the commercial stencils I’ve had cut, but it seems serviceable enough.

    I did want to deal with the spacing issue so I could get the board thickness a little closer to the fixture thickness. It turns out that 4 mil is almost exactly 0.1mm, so I cut a spacer as part of the previous revision. Here’s a crappy picture of my first attempt (the stencils are really hard to take pictures of):

    IMG_9246

    That is what happens when you try to cut mylar with high power; the beams stays on at the corners and totally blows it out. I *thought* this would still be usable, but all that melted mylar globs up and is way thicker than 4 mil.

    I cut a second version as part of the revision, using the lowest power that would work.

    IMG_9247

    That is definitely much better, but when I grabbed my micrometer and measured it, it turns out that the mylar melts a bit where it’s cut and the edges are about 0.2mm thick. Since I was hoping for something like 0.3mm total, just using this spacer should be sufficient.

    First pass with solder paste:

    IMG_9248

    And the resulting boards. It was mostly good enough; needed a bit of touch-up for a couple.

    IMG_9249

    LEDs and decoupling capacitor added:

    IMG_9250

    Into the oven:

    IMG_9253

    And all done:

    IMG_9254

    The reflow worked well; 11/12 were fine at the start, and I replace one LED to fix the others.

    IMG_9256

    Round 2

    Round 2 was more of a production run. I changed my technique so that after putting the paste on, I would peel the stencil up and then separate the layers to let the boards fall out the bottom. This worked pretty well. I did 9 rounds plus 4, or 112 boards total, which used up most of my LEDs. Two rounds in the oven, and I had 111 functional boards.

    I really need to build a new test rig; the current one only tests 3 at a time and it’s a pain to load them.

    Summary

    I’m quite pleased with the way that the jib turned out; I pretty much works exactly the way I had hoped, and I can apply paste and populate a set of boards in about 10 minutes.



    Training Wheels Very Very Late Spring Canadian Century

    Because of a conflict, I was unable to ride Flying Wheels this year, but since I have some bigger rides later in the summer – including DORMAR (RAMROD backwards) – I wanted to get in a nice long ride.

    So, I decided to go out and ride a century. But just riding the Flying Wheels route would have been too easy, for a couple of reasons:

    First, I live a little over 5 miles from the starting point, and if I ride there and back that would be an extra 11 miles or so.

    The second reason requires a bit of an explanation… I’ve been leading rides around the Eastside for a number of years now and did my own routes before that. So… I have a particular attitude about routes. Perhaps a Venn diagram would help:

    image

    Rare is the route that I won’t find something to complain about. Some of my complaints are based in fact, but many are based on reasons.

    So, anyway, a little route-tweaking was in order. The big changes I made were:

    1. Starting the route at my house
    2. Ending the route around the south end of Lake Sam to make it a little simpler; otherwise I would ride all the way to the North end just to ride South again.
    3. Getting rid of about 7 miles of farting around in North Bend. I know that they need to find some extra distance someplace and this was an easy way to do it, but I really find that section to be tedious.

    That gave me 99.8 miles, or something like that.

    The ride

    I woke up, skipped breakfast – as I generally do before long rides these days – and got dressed. The weather was in the mid 50s, trending into the low 60s later on. I positively hate that temperature range; it’s just a bit too cold for bare legs for me, but it’s going to be too hot for leg warmers later on. Arm warmers are easy to fit into a jersey pocket; leg warmers are a lot harder. Unsure, I went and stood outside for a few minutes, and decided that if the sun held up, bare legs would be okay.

    Did I mention that the forecast was for partly cloudy? Yeah…

    Before I got dressed I drank down 3 scoops of SuperStarch with a half scoop of Endurox to make it slightly less repulsive. The SuperStarch is based on cornstarch, and a big glass of water with a lot of suspended cornstarch tastes exactly as good as you think it does.

    In my pockets was a ziploc bag of Cheez-its that had seen better days and a single Honey Stinger Chocolate Waffle. I’m experimenting with a bit of carb supplementation recently. I had my arm warmers on and was wearing a stuffable vest.

    I rolled out of the driveway at 8:15 and immediately ran into a problem. Well, two problems. The first was there was a bit of a headwind coming from the North, which would slow me down and make things a bit cooler. The second was that my legs hurt and felt flat.

    After an 8 mile warmup, I came to the base of Inglewood hill, the first on the docket for the day. If you climb Inglewood during Flying Wheels (I have been known to ride up the harder Sahalie drive climb instead), you will know that it is somewhere between a hot mess and complete carnage. I avoid it on my rides because I just don’t like it very much, so this was a rare solo ascent for me.

    On climbs, it’s great if you can find a rabbit. A rabbit is a rider in front of you that you can try to catch. Ideally, the rabbit is just a bit slower than you so that you can make up some time on them during the climb. Early on a weekday morning, there were no rabbits to be found, but halfway up I looked to the side and found that I had a deer who was pacing me just off the side of the road. She’d stop for a moment, I’d get closer, she’d run forward a bit and stop, and the cycle would repeat itself a few times. We eventually came to a road, where she hesitated and I tried to figure out how I could bail because 25’ is way to close, and then she took off into some woods. The rest of the hill was soon dispatched. Not one of my better climbs, but I was at the top.

    The next hill is 236th, climbing from 202 up into the Redmond Ridge/Trilogy developments at the top of Novelty hill. It will surprise you not at all to find out that I think this routing is a mistake. I don’t think it’s necessarily too hard for the century riders, but I do think that it’s too hard for the 47 and 67 mile riders. In the old days, we went east and climbed up Ames Lake; though that does require a left turn that isn’t the safest, I still think it’s a better choice. The century riders could climb up Union Hill Road to get to the same spot as they do currently, or you could just split early and send them up 236th.

    I’m doing okay on the hill, climbing at 230-250 watts, which is my sweet spot these days. I finish the climb, pass the always confusing Union Hill Road intersections, climb some more, and then finally climb a bit more until I reach Novelty Hill road, where the century route turns left.

    Sigh. I will at times take a group down Novelty, but there’s a lot of traffic, there isn’t a great shoulder in places, and there’s a roundabout. All of that to get down to the valley so that you can ride Avondale North for a few miles.

    Ick. I turn right, head east a bit, and turn left on Trilogy Pkwy. This descends, turns west and changes to NE 133rd, and then descends all the way down into the valley. Good pavement, light traffic, and it rejoins the route on Bear Creek Road. I turn right and head north, when the road turns left I follow the ride route and head north, and then when the road ends at Woodinville Duvall road, I do a quick left/right so that I can get on Paradise Lake Rd and head north.

    You may have noticed a theme for this section, that of “heading north”.

    I generally prefer to ride PLR the opposite directly where you lose elevation and feel like you are stronger than you really are, but this direction is mostly okay except for the one 14% hill. Near the end I skip the little loop that would take me to a food stop on the real route, cross 522, and turn right to head North. The parts on the Sammamish Plateau and the Trilogy section were mostly sunny and I was mostly warm, though the descents got a bit chilly. Once I started heading north, it got cloudy and I picked up a headwind, which puts me just on the cold side of chilly. Nothing to do about that but keep riding. A nice section of Fales road takes me more north, and then finally hit the northernmost part of the route, and thankfully turn right to head to the south.

    I have a bit of mental myopia about this section of the route; I think that it’s quick to get from up here down to Fall City, but if you look at the route is around 32 miles. I also think that this section is flat, but only the section south of Carnation is flat; the rest is a seemingly endless succession of rolling hills. That can be fun if you are in a nice group and your legs feel good; not quite so fun when you are by yourself and your legs hurt. Two notable events occur on this portion.

    The first is that I come up and pass a group of 4 riders, ask them how far they are riding, and they say they are doing 90 miles. The second is that as I start to get close to Carnation, I’m on a small downhill and my bike is making a strange sound; the front derailleur is making a rubbing sound.

    That sound is familiar to most of us, buy my current bike never makes that sound, but it has Di2 electronic shifting and the front derailleur auto-trims so that it doesn’t rub. I look down and realize that I am cross-chained; I’m on the small chainwheel up front and the second-to-smallest sprocket on the cassette. This is generally not a good idea as it is less efficient and if you put a lot of force in you can break the chain. Further, it should not happen as I run my system in synchro mode where it will auto-shift the front when necessary.

    I figure it’s a glitch and I manually shift the front. Nothing happens…

    Those of you with Di2 probably know exactly what is going on, but for the rest of you, Di2 is a great system but it does run on batteries. The battery lasts quite a long time, but if you run it down too much, it stops shifting the front derailleur so that a) you will notice that the battery needs to be charged and b) you will be in a mode that preserves the low ratios for riding home.

    This is both annoying and glorious. Annoying because it means I can’t really spin more than 21 or 22 MPH on the gear that it gives me, and I really like to spin on descents to keep my legs warm, especially on a day like today. And glorious because it gives me a wonderful excuse to skip the Snoqualmie Falls climb so that I can get home and recharge it before it stops shifting at all.

    Soon after this happens, I roll into Carnation, hit 53 miles, and stop at a food mart for a bit of a break. I grab a Coke Zero – for the caffeine and the hydration – a snack pack of pepperoni and cheese, and small package of beef jerky. I sit in the sun on the curb and rest my legs.

    Even just sitting here, they hurt. After 10 minutes or so, I’m done with my food and I head south out of town, stopping by the ball field for a quick nature break.

    Then it’s across the valley to the west side and onto the West River Road, so named because it runs on the west side of the Snoqualmie river. This potentially could be a nice section with a nice river view, but in actuality you can’t really see the river at all, but there is lots of farmland and such to look at if you are into that sort of thing. I’d been hoping to make some time on this section, but a combination of a lack of gearing and a headwind slows me down a bit. It’s a relatively short section, and before I know it I’m at an intersection of with highway 202 and the base of the Fall City –> Issaquah climb.

    When I first started riding this was a very hard climb for me; it features something like 450’ total and some short sections in the 14% range. These days, even with 60+ miles in my legs and not feeling great, it’s just not that hard. The country repaved this with some gloriously smooth pavement last year and I had a really nice ascent after that – my last smooth ascent, it turns out, since they decided to put chipseal on top of that gloriously smooth pavement. I’m assuming this costs less in the long run but makes the climb much less nice.

    My ascent is pedestrian in terms of performance though not in terms of method of locomotion, I descend and then start up the “bonus” part of this climb. I’m thinking a bit through this section as I need to make a decision. I have three routes in my head to get home. I can stick on the century route which will take me a bit northwest and then down 236th – a street that was fine 15 years ago but is way too busy for a ride like this anymore (yes, I can’t stop complaining about the route). I can turn left on Fall city Issaquah road and either descend all the way down or take Black Nugget road down for the last part. Or, I can turn left off of fall city issaquah, ride up to the Highlands, and then descend into downtown Issaquah. I opt for the last one, and it’s mostly okay. My legs have been hurting a bit less since I had the snack & cold beverage.

    Now, all that is left is to climb all the way up Newport and then head for home. I’m trying to figure out whether I will hit 80 miles for the ride. I think it will be close.

    This next section is really too boring to talk about, but eventually I make it home pretty near to 82 miles and head inside to have some lunch.

    Overall, a pretty decent ride, delta the leg pain.

    Stats:

    Distance: 81.13 miles
    Time: 5:31:27
    Speed: 14.7 mi/h
    Up: 4437’
    Work: 2997 kJ (read this as “2997 calories”, it’s close enough).

    Food for the day:

    • 3 scoops of SuperStarch + 1/4 scoop of Endurox, 325 calories
    • 42 Cheez-its (+- 7 its), 275 calories
    • 1 Coke Zero flavored brown water with caffeine, 0 calories
    • 1/2 Honey Stinger chocolate waffle, 80 calories
    • Cheeze & pepperoni snack, 150 calories.

    I think that’s 830 calories total for the day.

    Strava link.

    And yes, I’ve made you read the whole thing for an explanation, but the US/Canadian exchange rate is about 0.8, so riding 100 Canadian miles is equal to 80 American miles. Hence “Canadian Century”.


    7 (11) Hills of Kirkland 2018

    Before or after you read this, I recommend watching the Relive video of the ride. Hell, you should probably do that instead of reading this…

    I have done 7 hills more than any other organized ride. Way more than any other ride; I think I have ridden nearly every year since 2005.

    As I got ready for yet another trip around Kirkland and points nearby, I was thinking about why I like this ride so much. And I think it’s a number of things:

  • It’s short. In the early days, there was only the 38 mile route now known as the “classic”. These days I always ride the metric; for a couple of years I signed up for the full century and then found *really* good reasons to only ride the metric, so I’ve just decided to stick with the metric.

  • It’s hilly. In the days before I got stupid and thought up Sufferin Summits, it was a really hilly ride, but these days it’s just moderately hilly. But in manages to throw in some nice challenge hills; Seminary and Winery. I do better on routes with a lot of up and down as they bother my neck muscles less, and the route that it uses is exactly the kind of route that I use for the rides that I lead.

  • I could ride it in my sleep; the route is engrained in my brain and I know the area extensively, which means I have zero concern about getting lost or taking a wrong turn.

  • It’s a fundraiser for a charity that I like.

  • It’s the first organized ride I do every season.
  • Those were good enough reasons in the early days, but early in this decade I added a new reason; my mother passed away early in the morning before a 7 hills ride after a long illness. I’ve found that when I’m in my “long ride” mental state, I can spend a little time remembering her and somehow it just works well.

    In 2017 I skipped 7 hills; I’m going to claim that it was weather-related, but I was in the middle of transitioning from a carb-fueled athlete to a fat-fueled athlete and not in great shape. I now have near a year of a different diet under my more-loosely-fitting belt, and I’ve been able to be more consistent in my training this spring. I’ve also been trying to make my easy rides easier and my harder rides harder.

    How will 2018 fare? My tentative plan for the upcoming months is to do a century (was going to be Flying Wheels but I have a conflict so it will probably be a solo one), Tour de Blast (which did not go well last year), DORMAR (a self-supported backwards RAMROD), Sufferin’ Summits, and then probably Passport 2 Pain in September. That’s a lot of rides, and I’m hoping my fitness coming into the season is good.

    Planning

    I signed up for the metric. And… well, the night before I pulled a neglected bag of cheez-its and a honey stinger waffle out of my old carb-fueled bike food store and set them on the counter. I don’t eat this stuff at all in my normal diet any more, but as I mentioned, I have some long rides planned, and while I can do 45 miles without food, I don’t think I can do 150. Which means I need to experiment a bit with light carb replacement during rides.

    The morning of

    I wake up at 5:30 to the sound of the birds outside, and quietly get dressed. Then it’s out to the kitchen to… well, not to do much of anything. I’d normally eat bacon and eggs but they take a long time to digest, which requires a lot of blood supply, which means less blood for your muscles. So, I sit around, do a bit of stretching, and try to figure out what to wear. I will be wearing my limited edition Sufferin’ Summits Jersey, that is for sure.

    The forecast is annoying. There is little chance for rain – which is great – but the starting forecast is for 55 at the start and maybe 63 at the finish. Which puts me in a quandry; above 60 I don’t need any covering for my arms or legs – maybe just a vest to wear at the start – while at 50 degrees I need arm and leg warmers. The expected temps are precisely at the transition between the two, which makes it maddening. I throw on arm warmers and leg warmers, get all the rest of my stuff together, and head out and load the car.

    Well, that’s not quite true; I’m not going to do this ride totally fasted. I mix up 2 scoops of Superstarch – a cool time-release glucose source – with a half a scoop of Endurox to make it slightly more palatable in a glass of water and drink it down. That will support my glycogen reserves during the ride but won’t provide a quick enough does of glucose to bump my insulin up and interfere with fat metabolism.

    The ride

    The start is pretty much like any start. I ditched my leg warmers due to the peer pressure of all the cyclists riding past me without them and had to make a trip back to the car to retrieve a forgotten water bottle.

    I generally only ride with people on this ride who I happen to meet during the ride, but my friend Mike is there and we start together, taking a quick detour to make sure that we ride through the inflatable “Start” arch, because if you don’t the ride doesn’t count. We ride along and talk as we make our way up Market (hill #1) and Juanita (hill #2), and then turn to descend down Holmes point road. This is a really fun descent normally, made a lot less fun this time by a lot of riders and car traffic, so we settle for a safe yet far less exuberant trip down. Which brings us to the base of hill #3, Seminary road.

    This is a decently hard climb at 414’ and a max gradient of 13% or so. I send Mike off ahead and tell him not to wait because he’s a much faster climber than me, and settle in. This is the hill where first-time participants realize that maybe this ride is a bit harder than they expected, so there are a lot of people riding pretty slowly. My legs feel good and I’m climbing at around 250 watts, a decent pace for me. I pass a lot of people and get passed by a few, and I hit the top faster than I expect. Seemed easy. A short break to take off my jacket and a quick descent and portage to the next hill.

    Norway hill is a nice little climb; a bit of undulation to keep it interesting and about as long but not quite as steep as seminary. I ride kindof conservative but there’s a group of 4 behind me that I don’t want to catch me, so I put out a bit more power in the top half, including a short section at over 300 watts. My legs feel pretty good, and I ate a few cheez-its on the way up that are sitting pretty well.

    We now get into what I think is the worst part of the ride. Part of that is just the geography; we need to get from Norway (hill #4) to Winery (hill #6), and there aren’t a lot of great route options. They also need to fit in a food stop in a parking lot near the hospital. I stop long enough for a nature break and to grab a small Clif bar (barette?), blueberry something something flavor.

    I haven’t talked about hill #5 because it doesn’t really exist; there’s a little climbing before the rest stop, and little climbing there, and that’s what we call hill #5. They used to use a slightly different route that had a slightly more defined hill, but even then it wasn’t much of a hill.

    We’re heading north now, we have a nice descent down brickyard road that is slightly marred by too many cyclists, and then curl back south on a mostly flat portion of the ride through the Woodinville winery district. People try to fly on this section for some unknown reason and I get passed by a few, but its far better to rest the legs a bit because of what is coming up.  I finally arrive at the base of hill #6, which if you were paying attention you already know is Winery Hill. At only 307’ of total elevation gain, it’s not a particularly long hill, but it is a nasty hill, with a 17-18% pitch at the beginning, and some slightly-less-nasty pitches later on. Kindof a set of stairsteps.

    I arrive near the back of a group of 25 riders or so, and start climbing. My legs feel good, so I ratchet up the effort and am climbing at about 500 watts through the steep section. As I’m picking my way through a clot of riders, some smartass in the group says, “remember, you paid to do this”.

    Okay, so, you might be able to guess who the smartass is…

    The hills flattens for a bit and I catch by breath, go hard up the second steep section, and then hard up the third steep section, and then try to maintain a decent pace up the long steady section, and I’m at the top, riding hard and turning left past the bagpiper towards the next part of the ride.

    Wait, the bagpiper?

    Yes, 7 hills has a bagpiper who stands at the top of Winery hill and plays. It’s another reason I really like this ride.

    A later check of my data shows that I cut 17 seconds off of my PR for Winery Hill, which makes me feel pretty good. I am even happier to note that I share 527th place on the climb with my friend Kent, who is a way better climber than I am.

    I make a quick stop at the next rest stop to top off my water and eat approximately 1/8th of the clif bar.

    Decision point…

    After you descend back down into the Sammamish River valley – the one you just climbed out of – you reach a decision point. You can go straight, do one final hill, and be done. Or you can turn left onto the metric century route.

    I turn left, and we head across to to the east side of the river valley and start up what I call “the 116th surprise”. It’s only about 50’ of elevation gain, but it makes up for it by being in the 15-16% range. Surprise. That makes me happy because a number of my routes features surprises, and the cyclists who ride with me always expression their appreciation. My unexpectedly strong legs carry me past another clot of riders and I turn off to finish the rest of the climb up education hill. Or partway up it.

    I feel a special bit of ownership around this part of the route. The route we used to do involved a descent down a 15% + hill that ended at a stoplight on a fast arterial. A few years ago it was a bit wet when we did that descent and the combination of wet brakes and a little sand at the bottom made it more terrifying than usual. I suggested an alternate route to the organizers, and we’ve used that route since.

    Next up is Novelty Hill which at 515’ is the biggest elevation hill we will climb today, which I guess is a bit novel. Beyond that, it’s not particularly steep (10-11% tops) and has no unique scenery. It does feature lots of vehicular traffic flying by at 45-50 MPH, though to be fair the shoulder is pretty good. I talk with one of the official support riders – the sweep for the century riders – on the way up for a minute or two before deciding to leave him up behind. We’re doing a loop in this section with a stealth hill or two, but it’s mostly boring. I play leapfrog with a couple of guys that I will refer to as “Chris” and “Scott”, because for some reason I am convinced that I actually remembered their names, and we are soon descending back down Novelty Hill.

    On the way down we will see a long line of riders ascending the hill, which makes me happy I am not them, but I wish them luck. My attitude towards the ascending riders is considerably more charitable than my attitude was towards the descending riders I saw on my ascent.

    We turn off on a chunk of Old Redmond Road that time forgot for hill #9. At 174’ and no more than 8%, it’s a short and easy one. As we’re rolling along “Chris” says, “it looks like we’re riding about the same speed, we might as well ride together” and introduces himself and Scott. We ride together and talk for about 90 seconds before “Chris” says that he needs to slow down for Scott – who is not having a good leg day – and I ride off ahead alone, completing the shortest spontaneous “let’s ride together” segment that I have participated in.

    After a quick descent, I am faced with a second trip up Education hill. It’s what I like to refer to as “re-Education Hill” as it’s the second time we climbed the hill. I like to refer to it that way, but it’s pointless to do so because I am all by my lonesome at this point. I can’t see any rabbits on the hill – a “rabbit” being a rider in front to try to catch up with, not the plentiful real rabbits that you hope will stay away from your wheels – so I check my internal store of motivation and find that while the gauge is hovering near “E” and the light is on, there is still a wee bit left, and I call on that to head up the hill to the tune of 220 watts or so. I am getting a bit tired.

    At the top, I hit the last rest stop. They specialize in utterly pedestrian turkey and cheese wraps, and I eat about half of one, another 1/8th of the Clif bar, and maybe a few more cheez-its. A volunteer gets me a water refill, I take a quick nature break, and then sit down in a chair. After 30 seconds, I realize that if I sit longer than that, I won’t want to move – as evidenced by the 3 guys in the chairs who haven’t moved since I got there – so it’s back on the bike. I descend back down to where the metric route branched off and get on the main route to the finish.

    This part is going to be fun. Partly because it’s hill #14 – and therefore the last one – and partly because I will have plenty of rabbits to chase on the climb, as the classic route riders are on the route for me.

    We are climbing the more popular part of Old Redmond Road, and it will take us 391’ up, but even the steep sections aren’t very steep. I go hard up the first pitch and barely make it over the crest without blowing up. The rest is mostly easier, until I finally turn left onto 132nd, and my climbing is done for the day.

    In this section the traffic lights break the riders into clumps, and I’m at the front of my clump and therefore have no visible rabbits. Except maybe one I can vaguely see way ahead of me. I ride down a short hill, turn left onto 116th which is mostly downhill with a few false flats, head down Northup which is fully downhill with no false flats, passing a few people, and then we turn onto Lake Washington Blvd for the final run to the finish. There’s a triathlete in front of me that I half-heartedly – for I only have half a heart left – try to catch going up a small little hill, but it doesn’t work, so when we get to Carillon point (yes, there is an actual carillon involved) I throttle back and spin along the waterfront to cool my legs down. Overall I feel pretty good; my legs are tired because I pushed them hard but I feel fairly strong and could keep riding.

    Then it’s onto the finish line festival and a somewhat perplexing set of booths, I get my strawberry shortcake (another reason to do the ride), eat the strawberries and whipped cream and a tiny part of the shortbread, and then hop back on the bike to ride back to the car and go find some lunch. Which turns out to be a Qdoba taco salad.

    Strava route

    Stats:






















    Miles 61.91
    Time 4:22:55
    Up 4,462’
    Work 2449 kj
    Speed 14.1 mph

    That’s a pretty good effort for me, though its a bit slower than I have done in the past.

    For the day, I had my two scoops of superstarch (about 200 calories), approximately 27 cheez-its (150 calories) and about 1/4 of a clif bar (50? calories), for a total of 400 calories. Oh, and the wrap, for maybe another 100. That was enough to keep me going strong for the whole 4.5 hours, which means that the majority of the 2450 calories I burned came from fat. My stomach felt great.

    No breakfast means I had a calorie deficit for the day of something over 3000 calories, and I’ve been doing my best to eat that back since.








    DLE (Globes of Fire) Part 5 – First Board!

    When a new telescope is completed, one of the big milestones is known as “first light” – the first time that the telescope is used as it is intended.

    Now that I am the proud owner of a reflow oven – a modified Black & Decker toaster oven fitted with Whizoo’s Controleo3 reflow oven kit – and I have a new version of my boards back – it’s time to think about how to build these things in a reasonable way.

    The plan is obviously to switch from hand-soldering to reflow. To do that, the first thing that I need is a stencil that I can use to apply solder paste. Thankfully, kicad makes this really easy; you can modify the solder pad tolerances in the program, and the pcb editor can write out SVG files (thanks to Rheingold Heavy for this post). If I have the pads, I can easily cut a stencil, likely out of mylar because it’s a bit cheaper than Kapton is.

    That would give me a way to do a single board if I could hand-align it closely enough. But each of the globes needs 12 of these boards, and hand-aligning is a pain.

    So… what my real plan to do is to cut holes in a piece of hardboard (or cardboard) that will hold a number of the boards (12 or 24) and then a matching stencil. If I align the stencil one, then I can put solder paste on all of them.

    IMG_9223

    So, here’s the test. I took the pad svg and the board edge svg, joined them in inkscape and then cut them on the glowforge. As you can see, the boards fit perfectly into the cutouts, and the solder pads cut correctly. Next I will need to do a better version of this, with different colors for the pads and board edge so I can turn them off and off when laser cutting. I’m also probably going to cut holes for some posts that will give me registration between the board with cutouts and the stencil.

    You can also see the first two boards that ran through the reflow oven. I did the solder paste without a stencil and I also skipped baking the LEDs since they showed up in a factory-sealed pack and have been sealed since, and both boards came out fine. And a 10 minute reflow cycle is a lot quicker than hand soldering…


    Bespoke bicycle Holder

    My nice bicycle currently hangs on two old shelf standards that are screwed into the wall, with some foam on them to protect the frame.

    IMG_9219

    It works, but the foam has seen better days and if we got a quake, it could easily shake off the ends.

    It’s time to build something a bit nicer, so I dug out some leftover hardwood plywood I have (maple, I think) and spent a little time with Fusion 360, and came up with the following design:

    image

    This is a render in oak. The holes are 16” apart so they can screw directly to the studs, and the hangers are a bit closer together so it’s easier to hang the bike with batteries on it. The arms that hold the bike have two hefty tenons that stick all the way through the back piece.

    Off to the garage to use the Shaper Origin…

    Cutting

    The cutting mostly went pretty well, but it took longer than I expected and I worked past a point of being too tired and therefore had a couple of issues. I’m using a piece of maple plywood that I had lying around that is unfortunately not very wide, so I had to put some auxiliary pieces off to the side with shaper tape on them so that it could figure out where it was. This mostly worked, until I got to the last cut on the last piece, and partway through I bumped my setup and that piece – which was partly clamped but not correctly clamped – moved.

    That is *bad*; the shaper throws up a big banner that says “the markers have moved and you are SOL”, or words to that effect. I tried a cut after that, and they were right, so I finished cutting through with an abrasive disk on my dremel and cleaned up with a little sanding drum.

    A little sanding, and it was time for gluing and clamping. The nice part of the holes and tabs approach is that there is a ton of surface area, so lots of material for the glue to grab onto. It’s probably strong enough with the glue because of the way the geometry works; the arms that hold the bike can only pull straight out, and even that is difficult. So, no fasteners required, but a lot of clamps.

    IMG_9217

    Give it 4 hours for the glue to set, and we are left with this. The dark coloration looks like a burn but is really just the plywood.

    IMG_9218

    Overall, it came out mostly okay; in some places the fit isn’t as tight as I’d like – which I attribute to some wiggling because of how I did the cutting – but it’s more than functional.

    Four 3” screws to mount it – yes, that’s overkill, but it’s so easy with an impact driver…

    IMG_9221

    and we’re done. I’m hoping the sunscreen shelf will help remind me to use it before I leave. I used some short pieces of the foam from the old holder to pad the new one.

    IMG_9222


    Draft: Compound miter saw table…

    I have a decent DeWalt compound meter saw next to my garage; it lives next to my table saw on a stand like this:

    Image result for dewalt dwx723

    The stand is nice a rigid and easy to take places, which is nice. It does have a few issues:

    • The legs stick out towards the car that is parked next to it, taking up space.
    • There’s no good place to stack stock; it will fall off of the rail.
    • The lack of support between the saw table and the extensions is annoying.
    • The table is about 1” higher than my table saw, which means you have to move the saw table to do even a small cut on the table saw.
    • It lives right where a small outfeed table would be nice.

    I’ve been playing with some ideas on how I might build something in my second shaper origin project, and here’s what I have so far.

    image

    It’s drawn to use 18mm baltic birch plywood. The drawing is pretty rough; no connection tabs, no holes, just a bunch of rectangular solids so far.


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