Category Archives: Education

Basic Blacksmithing

Not much I can add to this article over at Make Magazine on the basics of blacksmithing. Check it out!


The Art of Compromise and Using What You Have

There I was, minding my own business several months ago, helping my best buddy load some steel for a now forgotten project when Angela, the super cool person who works the office and keeps things running smoothly at my favorite steel supplier, pointed out a couple piles of heavy duty steel U-channel scraps and told us to take as much as we wanted so she wouldn’t have to deal with it.

Several hundred pounds of steel loaded into the back of a pickup later, my buddy and I set off and eventually offloaded the scraps in my garage. The steel was all 6 x 2 1/2 by 3/8ths thick and the bulk of the usable length of the scrap was 30 inches. I had to trim off some angled cuts the fabrication guys had made in building whatever real project they’d contracted to build but that was pretty easy thanks to my Harbor Freight band saw.

So, I have this pile of heavy duty, beefy as f*** steel in desperate need of a project and it dawned on me that as a wannabe welder, I needed a good table on which to work. If I butt welded a couple pieces together I could have a 48 x 30 table which was really perfect for my garage.

So, I butt welded a couple pieces to create the main horizontal support pieces. One thing to note is that a real professional welder would be able to assure that their weld is as strong as a continual piece, I’m an amateur at best. I’m going to use physics to help ensure my table is as strong as possible.  Notice in this photo I intentionally put the welded pieces at opposite ends so any weight on the table would be more of a sheering force, rather than a bending force that would focus on the weak spot: the weld.


Also, in the above photo, you can see a trick to ensure everything is square. Using squares is great and gets you pretty darn close, but measuring opposite corners can get you very close to perfect. In this case, it was less than a 16th of an inch difference between one set of opposite corners and the other. I went into more depth in this post about making sure things are flat, level and square. Read it so I don’t have to copy and paste the whole thing.

Additionally, if you’re working on a normal garage floor, keep in mind that most garage floors are poured with a downhill slope to ensure any water runs out of the garage, not in. You can see in these photos that my level showed it was off, yet it was consistent with the floor.



After I tack welded the two horizontal pieces and the two cross pieces, it was time to lay out the rest of the table. Given what I what I had to work with and mathing it, 2 3/8ths inch space between each piece of steel worked out to pretty close to even spacing.

I welded the legs on first to give myself an easier work space, then set to welding the rest of the cross pieces.


A couple things to think about on a project like this (free) is your materials will dictate a lot of your design. If that simply won’t work, don’t be afraid to do a hybrid wherein you buy some key pieces and use your free stuff for the rest of it.

Once it was all done, this thing was heavy as hell and sturdy as f***.




The advantage of a table like this, with gaps between the crosspieces, is that I can clamp pieces anywhere, even in the middle, to fight heat distortion.

Now I have a really strong table that cost me just a few dollars for electricity, gas, and welding wire.


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Cold Casting Small Stuff

No, I’m not dead…

Anyway, check this out! Cold cast using a mixture of real powdered metals and clear resin. He starts with a 3D printed original but there’s nothing saying you couldn’t had carve a piece out of wax, etc.


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Getcher hands on some copper and build a still!

Legally, of course…

This outfit sells kits that require some assembly but they have helpful videos on the Youtube that show how to assemble their products.

The Home Distillers Forum is a fantastic resource for people who live in New Zealand where home distilling is perfectly legal…

There are currently bills in Congress to legalize hobby home distilling and I truly hope they pass. Lots of folks do so in spite of the (weakly enforced) law but my employer would come unglued if I got caught moonshining so alas, I must wait…

Even the most basic digging around on the interwebs will lead a person to detailed tutorials on how to constrict a still.

George Washington would approve

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I like to picture the Open Source Movement in a tuxedo T-Shirt because it says I want to be formal, but I’m here to party.

I’m starting to feel like the shittiest blogger ever to blog in the blogosphere.

Anyway, a little about me…

I’m a person who craves a creative outlet. My job was not one that allowed for that at all really and building things with my hands and tinkering on my days off was my greatest source of stress relief. Well, low and behold, around March of this year I fell into a position with my non-profit employer wherein I get to use my knack for tinkering in a pseudo-research and development role without having to change employers or be the FNG again.

It’s freaking awesome.

So now that I’m a tinkerer/researcher guy I’ve had to address a lot of problems and challenges with equipment we use while avoiding trying to reinvent the wheel or burning through a very limited budget. Additionally, I’m working with equipment developed by a guy who retired and whose spot I took over and that guy was a genius. Sometimes I’m left scratching my head trying to figure out how a thing he put together worked.

One of the things I have brought to the party in my new job is a deep love for all things open source and a love for standardized systems. Trying to get a gizmo to run that uses proprietary software to work right now when the IT nazis want a month or more to decide if they will approve some stupid ActiveX control has led me to embrace with open arms tools that are designed to work under standards like HTML5.

It may be presumptuous of me to say but I firmly believe we can credit the Linux community as being the driving force of the Open Source movement. If you’re one of the wonderful people developing stuff for that community, Tina Fey high five to you. People like you saved my little non-profit organization over $3,000 last week…

tina fey high five

This leads me to my main point: give back and share information when you get it. Don’t hoard information if it was basically free for you to learn it.

One of the beautiful things about the Internet is information is often freely available, yet someone had to sit down and organize it so another person could understand it and learn. I have learned tons from YouTube pages like Welding Tips and Tricks, Eli the Computer Guy, Kevin Caron, Hak5, MrPete222, and many more and have directly put that knowledge to work. The open source and DIY community is all about helping each other learn either to solve real world problems or just to have fun. If you know something, put it out there so another person can learn and grow and maybe share something you didn’t know.

I’m going to start work on a master list of my favorite resources so these folks get the recognition they deserve.

Stay tuned!

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Milling Machines and You!

While the opening is reminiscent of a porno… Kevin Caron lays down some good basic info like usual about milling machines.

Check out Kevin’s other videos. He does some neato stuff with a variety of mediums.

And of course look out for those zany machinists with their crazy pranks!

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