Category Archives: Random

In a Van Down by the River!

A Hackaday article reminded me of a project I want to try some day and that is converting an old bus into a sweet RV.

Jake VonSlatt has a cool page showing how he did it and was the page that originally got me wanting to do the same conversion. Time and space to put any project like this have kept me from doing it, for now…

If you have attention issues like myself, here’s a video VonSlatt made, check it out:

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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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Raw Materials

Wow! Well after a longer than intended hiatus while I settled into my new job I’m back and hopefully more diligent about opining about DIY topics near and dear to my heart.

Anyway, I recently read this article in which a smart young man shows how he forged small knives from drill bits and it’s reminded me to discuss a subject I’ve wanted to talk about for a while.

When should we make things from raw and new materials versus re-purposing/recycling old materials?

I used to be somewhat involved in the knife making community and this question comes up in one form or the other all the time, usually asked by people just getting started. Often people would ask how to turn an old file or car leaf spring into a knife and when someone suggested a different steel source than scrap, a lot of new people would get quite huffy and defensive about the steel source they had their heart set on. Why would they do that?

Just because something designed and constructed by industry to fill a certain role does not mean it will translate well to a new role without a LOT of work. The steel they make files out of is generally plain carbon steel that is heat treated to be very very hard which is great for cutting other steels but generally a poor choice for a knife blade due to brittleness. Also, in order to effectively work with it, you will have to anneal the steel which involves heating and cooling it at a proscribed rate and every time you heat steel, you run the risk (especially when you’re learning) of burning the carbon out of the steel and thereby nullifying the very attributes for which you chose that material.

Sometimes it’s just smarter and easier to buy new raw materials. You can buy the same steels they make files, car leaf springs, ball bearings, and even razor blades out of brand new online. It will come fully annealed and ready to be formed into whatever you wanted. It’ll already be flat, have no hidden cracks from years of use/abuse (because it hasn’t been used), and you will know exactly what you are getting which means you can get the right heat treating data and turn out a better final product. If you want to make the best possible knife, sourcing virgin steel for the blade is smart.

My point is this: I’m a huge fan of re-purposing and upcycling things but let’s all be honest here, we often do those kinds of things because we want to and like the aesthetic and the process of creating, not because it’s a better final product.

And that’s totally okay too.

As I said above some folks would get kind of bent when another critiqued their choice of material in the knife making forums. However, I don’t think it’s because they’re ignorant or stubborn but rather they had already began to envision the process of turning that file or that leaf spring into something else and that process is what they were going to truly enjoy, rather than having the bestest most badass awesome knife ever created when they were done.

We often allow ourselves to believe that the final product is more important than the journey taken to create it but that isn’t true. I love the journey and the sense of pride I feel when I’m nearly done but once I’m done, I’m looking for the next project and journey.

I hope that all made sense…

Here’s my hero talking about the obsessive creative process.

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How to cut bottles… which means you have to empty them first. Hooray!

This gentleman uses a commercially available bottle cutter but really, someone could make their own with some clamps and a carbide scribe. The real key to this isn’t even the tool he uses, but the method he uses to stress the glass into cracking. It’s forehead slappingly simple yet makes sense.

Check it out!

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There’s no such thing as “normal”.

This TED Talk is so powerful as it shows the adaptability and creative problem solving that was our gift from the process of natural selection. Millions of people all over the globe have to create and build and make things they need on their own or adapt other things to suit a new need without the industrial powerhouse that supports western consumerism. I make stuff because it’s fun and relaxes me and I’m humbled by the ingenuity and perseverance these people have who make things because they have to.

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In praise of the polymath.

An original maker: Paul Elkins, Pacific Northwest…