Projects & Experiences

Return to Sitemap

2004-06-08 Rev. 2004-07-04, -07-05, 2006-02-13, 2007-03-02, -04-23, -04-30, -10-30, -12-02
2008-02-08, -05-01, -06-09, -08-22, -08-31, 2009-02-16, -02-21, 2009-05-02 /* Alt labels */ -06-28, -08-02,
2010-01-04, -01-15, -02-04, -03-19, -10-03, -10-16, -10-28, -10-29, 2011-02-19, -09-28, 2012-02-25, -07-30 (edits) 2013-08-30
[Search on date pattern to find latest changes, more than one may be found.]

On This Page

Projects List & Discussion

Tools Made

Good Practices

Creative Thinking


Fiction Reviews

Recipes Cooking & Keeping



Projects List
  Measure Floor Goods
  Gutter & Yard Drain
    Gutter Cleaner
    Access Door
  Gray Water
  Dog Surround
Cat House
Fence Gates
Bike - Carrier and trailer hitch. This picture shows the most elaborate version of my bike carrier, hitch, and trailer.  I have built about 4 versions of the carrier, which have been stolen and run over.  This version is half-inch square welded tubing bolted to thin angle iron with punched holes in it.  In previous versions I have used cloth and pegboard as the side panels to keep stuff carried on the sides from getting in the wheel.  Thin rope pulled tight seems to work especially well.
 A previous conduit tubing trailer was simply tied to the back of the carrier or mounted on a bolt, I still have the light one.  This trailer was custom built to haul upright a 100# propane tank to the fill station which would no longer fill tanks carried sideways in a car.  The tank weighs 180# filled, so the trailer had to be strong and the mount much further forward, as a rear mount would tip the bike up.  The mount is simply a post welded upright to a plate bolted to the carrier.  The hitch is made up of sections that allow 3D movement so the bike can be laid down (or fall down) without destroying anything.  There are 3 axes - vertically around the post, horizontal through the silver headed bolt and yaw (rotation) around a shaft running back from the post. Several sections replace a ball hitch that I could not machine or shape at the time I made it. 2004-07-05 The pictures at right, taken with a phone camera, so a close up of the hitch mount and saddle bags for groceries.  Sharp eyes are required to see that the one below and to right are not the same, mostly by the aluminum lower shelf, the one below being stolen. 2008-02-18 Projects List
Bikerack and trailer hitch
Bike rack mounting.

VW Beetle with wooden camping box over engine compartmentBus, VW back pack, haulers and movers.  When I owned a VW Beetle, I built a triangular "camper" to fit over the engine cover in pockets fastened to the bumper mounts.  There were two compartments; the lower one being for bulk storage - sleeping bags, etc. Inside the upper one was an insulated icebox with drain and a custom water tank filled from above along with shelf space.  The upper door dropped down and was held by chain to make a work surface.  I took a long trip in 1962 out west and removed the back of the back seat and the passenger seat for more storage and a flat surface.  Although I am 6'2", I could sleep straight out with my feet under the dash and my head back near the engine.  Later when I traveled in my VW Squareback, I cut cardboard boxes so that from the outside it looked like the passenger side was full, but a chamber existed for me to sleep in more public spaces. [photo found 2011-02-19]

In the early 70's, my first wife, Jane, and I bought a 42 passenger school bus in Iowa - not rusty but with rural mud caked on - and I tore out the seats and rigged it for travel.  The first things put in all folded to the walls: stove, bed, basin, table, so that we could move from Iowa to her residency in Texas. Before the move I drove it with 2 cats and newly born kittens to Knoxville KY and Jane flew in.  We went up through the Smokies, across NC to the coast and up to DC and NJ and Jane flew home.  My adventures continued.
Empty as a camper later, it weighed 12,000 pounds and Texas licensed it as a very large car. Loaded for the move, it weighed 18,000 pounds.  After the move, water tanks under the bed, a heater and refrigerator, clothing and tool storage made it less flexible and more comfortable.  Sewage, propane, and extra gasoline tanks were added underneath along with a pullout ramp under the rear door. Trips.
At purchase, I estimated the total cost would be about $2000 and I was close.  The vehicle was about $600, a replacement engine $400, a brake rebuild about $400 and the various added appliances and tanks about $700.  It became awkward to park and was sold after about 10 years  Projects List

For a while in the 90's, my second wife, Gigi, and I owned a Chevrolet G10 van that was bought used with only two seats at the front and an unfinished shell behind.  A mount on the engine cover permitted a tray to be bolted between the seats to hold drinks, food and maps, but it swiveled aside to permit access to the back.  Seating in the back was a pair of sling chairs with seatbelts to the side wall.  About two feet in from the back end, a 1x4 stud wall was installed with a drop down hatch to permit long wood or metal to come in the back door and the whole center section could come out with slide latches to side pieces that filled out to the curved walls.  The area behind acted as a large trunk for tools and ropes, etc.  The wall was insulated.  Paneling was added to the main compartment with 1" of insulation to reduce heat load and the space was carpeted over a plywood deck.  Snaps were installed to permit curtains for modesty while sleeping inside.  Folding platforms provided sleeping space.  A wooden tray about 5'x3'x1' built to fill the space just inside the sliding side door permitted shoveling in gravel, sand or dirt like a pickup truck.   An extra ball hitch was mounted on the front bumper with a heavy steel angle to permit easier maneuver of trailers into the driveway - I overloaded it and bent the bumper.

All of my vehicles after the VW's had trailer hitches, my experience with rented trucks being just barely okay.  A large trailer, which may be tossed in the wind as was the one carrying a queen bed set to and a piano back from Louisiana, or a well loaded large trailer when helping a friend move, may have to be driven slower for safety, but convenient loading and unloading will permit carrying an impressive amount as was shown when the friend's reserved truck did not show up on time and a large open trailer moved almost everything in two trips of about 10 miles, the rest going in cars of frustrated helpers.  The professionally installed hitch on the van pulled several heavy trailers of wet concrete when working on the garage, a 5x10' flat trailer with added sides loaded several times with shingles from the roof job and the tractor type trencher for the sewer work.

House - Rental - My first wife and I lived in a rented apartment while in Dallas and we rented the one upstairs for the last years of our marriage and my first year or so divorced.  I believe I drilled through to run wires between two closets. I definitely had an odd room off the maintenance building beside where the school bus camper was parked which supplied power. I had a swing up hatch door that allowed me to walk in under the shelf that gave bench space. There was one small window.
When I moved out of the apartment, I lived in a duplex among blocks of duplexes called Northway Duplexes between Matilda and Greenville.  I added insulation to the attic space, put a mail slot in the door, and replaced a broken window pane with a box and ramp for the two Siamese cats that became mine. The garage space behind was stuffed.  When it was announced that the places were to be reconditioned and after pets would not be allowed, I removed the insulation and took it with me. Later, many of the duplexes were moved from their slabs, some to near where I live now, and multistory condos and apartments were built on the space.
The house I was renting when I married my second wife was literally pulling apart by the time we left - the foundation walls were tilting and it had been hit in the corner by a loose car from next door. During the time I was there I could customize it, because it was old and was ignored by the landlady.  My "half" of the house was the original downstairs living room and kitchen, stairway and upstairs central room, bath, porch, bedroom and attic space. The other part was the parlor, living room, and kitchen with bath to the side - walled off from mine side. I installed a cat exit box and lots of shelves in the downstairs space and stored my tools, etc. there.  The upstairs porch had two walls of windows and I made it my first bedroom, adding insulation and covering the windows. A single window air conditioner in the bathroom with plastic air ducting awkwardly served, although I slept on the floor in the bathroom during the horrible summer of 1980. Heat was provided by unvented space heaters to which I added  thermostatic and safety control. I insulated and sheet rocked the front "attic" space to have a queen sized bed. 2011-02-22
House - Intro: Our house in Old East Dallas was built in the mid-1920's in what was then considered a suburb. It is 1100 square feet pier and beam construction on a 50x150 foot lot. (Images)  The studs are spaced unevenly at the width of windows and the entire inside is planked with nominal 1" lumber cut with overlapping edges. Before we moved in the entire house had been walled with thin (3/8") sheetrock covering the wall paper that had kept the drafts out. As is common in southern homes, there was no insulation in the walls. Extended roof eaves provide summer shade to windows with an open porch across the front.  A narrow drive extends to a separate garage at the back. 2010-10-28
1019 front view in January 2008Our house (left), not our house (below), but similar construction in same area.

Done: heating system, gas plumbing, electricity, sewer, water, leveling, insulation, chimney, roofing, garage, kitchen, grey water drainage.  I like living in an old house.  I like making changes and in a new house the changes would stand out as well as the incomplete jobs. See notes on rentals above.  The house was in nice visible shape, but the floor sagged and was out of level so much the dogs learned to drop a ball in the living room and chase it as it rolled into the kitchen. 
  Over the course of time, I did all those things listed above, assisting on the first with my father-in-law and his workers doing most of the skilled stuff.  Gas plumbing included the line to the furnace in the attic and removing extra pipes to unused heaters as well as adding plumbing to move the water heater from the kitchen to a utility porch, add a gas dryer and move the cooking from a stove on one side to a cooktop and dual ovens on the other side.
  When we moved in electricity was supplied through two circuit breakers in a box limited to six and all the wiring was old tube and post.  First the box was filled with breakers and wiring changed to grounded Romex and eventually the service was upgraded to 200 amp, new from the utility connection on and I did it with a home owners permit after taking a city test.
  When the sewer line started breaking down, the first part was done professionally, but the rest was rerouted by me around the garage in a trench with a rented tractor trencher.  Later a rented smaller trencher was used to dig out the hole for a new tree to replace a broken one and while around, trenches for burying electrical and gas across the backyard to garage, glass hut and back lot line were cut.
  During leveling, one chimney was found to be resting on the house, making it sag, and was removed brick by brick from top and bottom with a pal.  The house was leveled gradually with hydraulic bottle jacks and mounts that let me slip the jack inside, raise the house 1/2", add shims and remove the jack for use in another location. In one wet location under the bath, where driveway water drained under the house, over 3' of concrete post 6" across was pushed into the ground to get a secure footing. Concrete curbing was poured or assembled to divert ground flow and gutters with extended piping moved up to 3/4's of the roof's water to the front street gutter rather than down hill to back yard.
  The other chimney was trimmed from the top and the hole shingled over during reroofing done with a nephew and one hired guy, finishing on some of the hottest days of the year, and damaging the ceiling in a strong rainstorm when the blue tarp blew free..  A rented pneumatic stapler and purchased trailer let me take off four roof layers (old rolled granular, wood shingle, two asphalt) and meet the insurance company's needs while they paid for it due to a nasty storm in the spring. 2005-07-29 rev. 2009-02-21
  The kitchen rebuild was a major project done during and after the house leveling and gas plumbing rebuild.  When we moved in the kitchen was usable, but the counter was installed lower than average, preventing putting a dishwasher under it and the cabinets under the counter had been sawn away to accommodate a double sink.  The two wall cabinets were apparently original to the house and thin sheet rock had been installed around them.  There were two closets, one fairly recent with the water heater inside and another original to the house with a door that opened along the wall (not into the room) over a window.  Our first step in planning was to move the existing gas stove across the room and fix the gas plumbing for a planned replacement and double gas oven, there not being enough electrical for electric appliances and us preferring gas anyway.  After more planning, the water heater was moved to the former back porch which had one of two walls of windows removed and the wall rebuilt solid and a smaller closet built for the water heater.  Water, gas and drain plumbing were extended under the floor to make a utility room with gas dryer, clothes washer, and chest freezer in line along the wall.  The large and small closets in the kitchen were ripped out - we found original wall paper in the small closet.
 As in other parts of the house, the walls were planked with shiplap on the inside.  The window just outside the old closet was shortened to allow base cabinets across its site.  We bought assembled cabinets from Home Depot.  Following a lead read somewhere, most of the lower cabinets have drawers rather than doors, much more convenient.  The ceiling is almost 9', so we gained more storage space by putting in 42" tall cabinets on the walls and improved access for 5' tall Gigi by lowering them until a Kitchen Aide mixer would just slide under.  New 20 amp electrical circuits were brought down from the attic, 2 on each wall but the entry, so there is lots of power available for counter top use. 
[Images below]
 When standing at the entrance, starting on the left, there is a refrigerator freezer, then a microwave below the counter and silverware drawers with dinnerware on shelves above. Stepping to the right to the SW wall, There is dog food and garbage containers, a small cabinet of cleaning stuff next to the dishwasher with canned goods above, then a double sink with disposal and window over, then drawers with storage containers and baking glassware above.  A lazy susan corner cabinet holds bulk food goods like flour and rice leading to the gas cook top with vent and small storage over and cooking tools and pots and pans below.  Another wide set of drawers is under the side window with narrow storage filling out the length to the gas double oven in the corner with storage over and under it of baking sheets and broiling pans.  Total cost of doing the kitchen, with myself and Lynn White doing the work except for the counter fitting, was about $3,000 including appliances.  Besides lowering the tall cabinets, the dual ovens were mounted lower than average and the microwave was put under the counter instead of above to accommodate Gigi's height. 2007-10-30 rev. 2009-02-21 Projects List

Kitchen, southeast side with frig

Kitchen, northwest side

Bathroom - When we moved in the tub was surrounded with Masonite finished and grooved to look like white tiles, including along the side wall of the tub itself.  This was in poor shape when we moved in and deteriorated with time.  It was obvious the tub was an old fashioned one similar to a claw foot that someone had filled along side with planks. While the size was nice (and even nicer now that I have been in shallow short modern ones), the spout and handles in the end were absurd.  The other fixtures were a high water usage toilet and a basin hung on the wall.  Storage was a set of shallow shelves built into the wall behind the door and a metal medicine cabinet recessed in the wall.
When the space under the bath was explored for leveling it was found to be soggy so the house had settled around the big cast iron sewer stack.  The basin drain was leaking and the pipes to the basin and tub were not in good shape.
Gray Water - The installation below is to handle the rush of gray water from the bathtub to distribute it for watering trees and other plants. (see watering plumbing details below)  Originally gray water was collected by siphoning over the edge of the tub, through the floor, out the wall and directly into a hose.  This required manual starting, which my wife was unwilling to do and was slow to drain, which caused problems when one bath followed another, so just my bath water got drained when she did not follow me in the tub.
  I spent some time considering how I might collect the water to get it out of the tub quickly and store it when several things happened in short order beginning with taking a different route back from the in-laws and finding these blue barrels for sale at the side of the road for a low price. When replacement of the tub drain to install a lever stopper and remove an ancient lead trap became desirable, plans came together.
  The new tub drain line in PVC, replacing lead and copper, included a T to allow diverting water through the wall. A valve outside the wall (gray with red handle) allows shutting off when needed.  The outflow continues through a fitting into the back of a large wastebasket to house a pump and act as the first accumulator.  A valve made of a flap of metal with plastic foam attached rises with rising water level to partially block the flow.  (I expect to replace it with a trapped ball coming up against a down pointing pipe.) Connected to the bottom of the waste basket is a tub drain fitting that connects to piping to the barrel - as the water level rises in the container, some goes to the barrel. A better arrangement would be for the drain water to T into the connection between the barrel and the waste basket but I have no method of preventing overflow in that case. (Or no cheap method - a costly large valve in the line with a cut off switch might work.)  The barrel and basket are mounted up on blocks and the drainage curb to permit bottom access of pipes.
  The green hose arched over the edge of the basket leads to a pump to push the water out into the hose. The pump is activated by the rising water that moves a lever (upper center of right picture) that moves a soft click wall light switch. The float inside the basket is a 16 ounce soda bottle partially filled with water and attached to a piece of stiff wire The right end of the lever is weighted with a block of lead. so the bottle is only partially doing the work of pushing up the switch.  The water in the bottle was adjusted to be enough to pull down the switch.  The wire is just visible in both photographs at left edge of the switch mount.  Hair in the water builds up on the pump and needs regular cleaning.
Hose connections are shown below. 2010-10-29  The whole thing got written up in Dallas Morning News article that added information about doing systems but also showed that almost nothing is being done by others in Dallas. 2012-07-30





Hoses and PVC on side of 1019 for wateringPVC gray water connections - The images below and right show the arrangement to distribute water, both gray and tap for lawn watering or washing down.  The fitting with the round handle is a freeze resistant water faucet connected to the bathroom plumbing.  The right angle fitting to its right with the hose attached is the line to take water to the front yard pecan tree and ground cover area (view here); it is wired under the gutter drain shown at the top edge of the right hand picture that carries water from the side and back of the house to the front and street. The two angled connections shown are the input to a pipe all the way across the house and out the other side to feed a hose for watering on that side and the remains of the siphon plumbing that simply haven't been removed.
As shown at the right the hoses for these connections plus the longer hoses that lead to the back yard areas generally lay coiled on the ground.  All of the fittings are quick connect and the PVC pipe uses hose fittings discussed here. 2010-10-29
Gutter and Yard Drainage - The property slopes to the rear with the front of the house about 16" clear under the joists and the back about 3.5 feet. The driveway is actually higher than the ground under the edge of the house.  When we bought it, the house had no gutters. Water pouring off the house, plus that falling on the drive ran down along side the house and flowed under it, adding to leveling/sagging problems.
A 4x4 concrete curb was added to the NW side of the house to carry water to the back of the house from the neighbors drive and my roof.  A short length of gutter was installed on the north edge of the NW side and a drain was dropped to a 3" PVC pipe under the lawn, draining to the front sidewalk. Because of the shape of the roof (image) about a fourth of the roof drains into this gutter. [About 12% of the roof in the back on the NW side has no gutter.]
 The front portion of the roof (16%) has no gutter but the water falls into the monkey grass ground cover in a valley which leads to a ground drain that feeds another pipe leading to the street.  A line across the drive of curb blocks that interlock provides a barrier to keep water headed toward the street from a high line of the drive at the front face of the house. (The yard is actually higher than the drive, so the drive drains, mostly.)
Along the driveway side, the largest section (30%), gutter was installed the entire length connecting to a full width length across the back (16%).  Instead of attempting to make all of this slope correctly, 3 drains were supplied. At the west end of the back the water simply drops into a space that drains back across the yard doing little harm.  At each end of the driveway side (SE), drops to PVC pipe were installed and one long run ran below the windows from back to front with the second drop T'ing in.  This pipe is just barely shown in the hose connection photos above. It ends projecting beyond the porch front and water falls into the drain well mentioned above. The panorama below shows the rear drain connection with the drop back from the wide eave, then the down pipe to the elbow with line running all the way to the front, and finally the front down spout and junction. A side view of the drop back from the gutter can be made out in the middle image. (continued) 2013-08-30

Gutter drain on side of 1019 to take water to front

 The open gutter requires cleaning because of the nice shade trees but since it is supported by brackets from below, a tool to scoop the leaves out can be run along on a pole from the ground.  A half inch rain puts about 560 gallons of water on the roof. 2010-10-29, -12-14
The gutters I installed were destroyed in the hail storm of 2012, and new much larger metal gutters were installed professionally under the insurance coverage.With my current health, I could not have done the job.  2013-08-31

Gutter cleaning tool mounted on extendable fiberglass shaftGutter Cleaner - When I installed gutters (above), the many trees that provided shade to the southeast side of the house also supplied leaves and seed droppings that filled the gutter. The wide overhanging eaves with the gutter on the edge made using a ladder awkward and so I built this tool to help deal with cleaning.
It consists of two bent aluminum bar stock pieces, 1/8" thick by 1" wide, that are held by hose clamps to the extensible section of an 8' extensible handle that will screw into any of several brush tools or special heads and extend out to about 22 feet. The bars shown are clamped to the middle section and will go up about 15 feet.
As shown in the photograph, the lower bar has two simple bends that result in the long end section being vertical in the normal working angle from the ground. It is used for poking into the top of downspout exits to stir the jams that occur there so water can carry the blockage down the spout.  
The upper bar is more complexly bent  so that the last flat section is horizontal at the normal working angle of the pole but offset to the side so the arched section goes over the cutter edge, the pole rests on the side and flat end goes under leaves, etc., sliding them up and out or allowing lifting over the edge.   2013-08-31
Office - The desk I am sitting at is a 3/4" plywood pentagon fitted into a corner. (obviously 90 in corner with 2 longer sides, other 3 are 24" and I sit at base.) Before the surface was put in place, 1x4 lumber on edge was screwed and glued to the edge on the side that would be the bottom and the whole thing finished with polyurethane. It was screwed in place to studs by going sideways through thickness of 1x4, the height giving lots of working space. The front edge was fitted with legs also made of 1x4, but you could use commercial legs as long as the height was planned first. My wife has a similar desk, but rectangular, and since it is longer and supported at the back and of 1/2" plywood, a 2" wide piece of the plywood was cut and glued flat to the front edge, making it look thicker and stiffening it. While the same 1x4 treatment was done on the back, on the open end, the wood was applied to the end so it projected up enough to keep stuff from being pushed off, a 1x2 as a ledger underneath involved in the fastening..  2008-08-15
  Recently the office has been expanded and regularized.  A dropped surface has been added to the left of the pentagon with a trim edge to keep stuff on with the intention of using it for a bent over electronics/modeling surface - of course it filled up with storage stuff laid down.  Gigi has had a hollow core door (literally, it has hinge cutouts) desk that was resting on old 24" tall by 10-12" wide boxes made with Masonite sides in some previous plan.  When she got serious about a new computer and unifying her equipment for a possible business, an L was added to her right with wall mounts and a shimmed connection to the door so the top is level.  It is supported by 3 pillar boxes 24" tall, one being the old printer/scanner support box of 1/2" plywood all around, one custom built in skeletal form to add full extension glides later (bought a box of 10 sets to save money) while being short to avoid clipping the knees at the corner and one being built full depth to take the scanner, etc., at my end.  By mounting the drawer dropped between the glides with a bit of edge above, a plate can be put on top to take the scanner without another set of glides and the drawer can hold accessories and digital stuff by sliding the plate back as the drawer is pulled out. 2009-02-21
Garage Repair - When we moved in, the garage was in poor shape and very old style with dirt floor and tacky brick image tar paper and asbestos wall shingles.  In 1994, the city cited us for garage condition.  When I stripped off the siding, the wood underneath was in worse condition than I expected, though I knew it was strange from looking at the inside.  The walls were built of upright planks nailed to a sill, a middle rail, and a top rail.  Most of the bottom sill was gone to rot and ants.  The citation helped me get a permit to "repair" the garage in place.  Under current rules, the garage would have to be built in the back third of the lot 3-5 feet from the fence line.  This would put it right on top of my new sewer and water lines and the soil worked up for a garden.  Under original rules, it is within a couple of feet of the line and 20 feet from the house, not 40.
The first step was to reinforce the roof with added cross joists which were nailed and bolted from below to the roof rafters lacking joists.  Then the metal roof was stripped off, the solid wood decking repaired in places and asphalt shingles placed - good practice for doing the house roof.  4x8 panels were built that would eventually become part of the walls, but were used to make a temporary 4x12 building in the drive to hold wood and tools stored in the garage.  It turned out that the dirt garage floor sloped (as does the lot) with the back walls several inches taller than the front to level the roof.  Temporary jacking posts made of doubled 2x4's with space for hydraulic bottle jacks.  In a complex dance, the stuff inside was moved around and various sections were framed for laying level concrete with wire mesh reinforcement.  Each one was the right size for a single ready mix concrete trailer of 1/3-1/2 cubic yard which is about as much as I could haul with the van and much as I could place and level in the time to return the trailer.  Sand and gravel were used to level the base for level concrete without using excessive concrete.
Once most of the concrete was laid, the roof was jacked up, with diagonals added for wind bracing.  The whole was jacked up about 6 inches and framing added to bring the concrete out under the walls. Interesting measurements and plumb drops were done to insure the new walls would fasten to the concrete and be vertical when done.  The walls were then ripped off in sections and the new walls and previously built panels installed. Siding matching the house with similar corner boards and top panels were nailed in place.
The front wall was built for a full width door, then part of it was framed within that to form a single car opening.  A person door was put in the side and a narrow access door covered with siding with a concealed bolt was put near the back on the same side to permit putting long wood and metal across the back of the shop without maneuvering them through the shop.  The first side door was a hollow core bought used accessorized with two bullet holes of about 38 caliber.  More recently, as that delaminated, a very heavy solid core door was installed with security hinges.  The overhead door which I built is locked from the inside, so only the lock on the solid core door is keyed.  Track hardware proved particularly hard to find as most garage door places wanted to install doors, not sell parts. I had to make many phone calls and only after working through the main listing did I notice that the place that had the track had a full page ad saying they sold all the parts. Except for the track, all the parts are in home centers and hardware stores. 2009-02-16 2007-04-30  Projects List


Access Door for Lumber - One of my neater thoughts in the garage design was making a door covered with siding near the back corner.  The door is about 18" wide and 6' tall and pretty much hides, showing a slight crack and the latch string (rope) in the first image below.  It is locked with a sliding bar than can only be undone by pulling on a rope that runs across the wall behind stored tools to the solid core door mentioned above.  It is locked by pulling on the latch rope that fits in a slight notch in the frame.  As shown in the other three images, the bolt was made by welding a bent rod bracket to the side of 1/2" steel rod.  Slightly oversized holes were drilled at a slight angle to allow access for the drill chuck and for the rod to be slid past the frame.  The rod's length is shown in the second picture where the back end is up against the frame.  The third and fourth pictures suggest the locked and unlocked positions of the bolt. It actually extends somewhat further - going about an inch into a hole in the door frame.  Inside the opening, a steel rack holds two levels of lumber above a space for sheets of 4x8 material.  With some adjustment, lumber up to 16 feet long can be inserted, but normally 8' boards and 10' tubing are what is stored.  I think I swiped the basic idea from a shop portrayed in Fine Woodworking magazine several years ago. 2007-12-12  Projects List

Garage storage access door .


Sheet Goods Patterns - Armstrong Flooring sells a kit for a price that includes a guarantee of replacement of your sheet goods if the method does not work.  The kit contains a very good idea for doing a paper pattern, two small tools that make it work and a bunch of paper.  If you need to fit a pattern to a sheet or two of plywood or non-Armstrong sheet goods, you might find the idea useful.
  The basic idea is to roughly fit the room with sheets of paper, then exactly transfer the outline of the room to the paper in a way that it can be exactly transferred back.  The transfer is done with tools designed to an exact offset.
  The first step in the idea is NOT to cut a big sheet of paper to fit the room/shape.  It is rather to take moderate sheets of somewhat stiff paper (heavier than 20 pound in the package, white food wrapping paper would be a good substitute, brown wrapping paper is a little light) and lay them down close to but not exactly matching the wall.  Where the wall makes a considerable corner, a new sheet of paper is laid down to fit, overlapping the previous.  In narrow situations a piece may be roughly cut to fit or two smaller pieces are used.  The pieces are taped to each other - I used blue masking tape.  Smaller individual problems - pipes, outlets, etc. - are dealt with as encountered - cut the moderate sheet or cut a much smaller piece and fit it in place.  When done, the pattern is a large rectangular donut shape - outline of the room with nothing in the middle.
  Tip #1 - You are working on a large piece of paper, WRITE ON IT.  Make notes to remind you what that funny little bump is and which pipe is involved or why you added the cut that you did.
  Tip #2 - It helps to put a piece of tape upside down under the bottom piece of paper before taping on an overlap.  This isn't required, but it helps in handling when picking up the full pattern - tape can also be added to the bottom later.
  Tip #3 - While short pieces of tape can be used at first for taping, it is best to fully tape each seam to reduce the risk of tearing free later.
   When the paper is laid out completely, and taped to the floor in a few places, since you are going be crawling on it, the next step is to transfer the exact size and shape of the room to the pattern.  This is done, in the kit, with two small tools.  One is a wheel with a hole in the middle and the other is a flat plastic ruler shape with a blunt point on one end and a hole an exact distance from that point.  The secret to the system is the location of the hole and the width of the ruler shape.  The radius of the wheel is exactly the width of the ruler which is the same as the distance from the point to the hole all being the offset.  In making a substitute, I would take a hole saw about 2 to 2-3/8" and drill out a hole in a scrap of wood and keep the disk.  The center hole will probably fit a BiC type pen exactly, but another pen can be fitted with rolled up sandpaper or careful drilling.  To make the ruler, place thin plywood or Masonite against an upright and roll the wheel with a pen inserted in the center hole along the upright.  The line marks the offset, the width of the ruler, cut it carefully.  If desired, one end can be bluntly pointed and a hole just large enough for the pen tip drilled the exact distance of the offset back from the tip.
  In use, the pen is held vertical and the wheel is rolled along the walls, making a line exactly the radius from the wall.  Where smaller details must be recorded and the wheel bridges them, the blunt point of the ruler can do the offset.  When done and checked, the tape tacking down the paper to the floor, if any, should be removed to avoid tearing.  Roll, turn over, or otherwise reshape to get the paper out of the room.
  Tip #4 - Getting the large mess of paper out of its interlocking fit may seem a huge hassle, leading to a temptation to cut it in half, but remember that the sheet goods have got to be fitted back in.  Rolling/folding the paper over a long thin board may make getting out without tearing easier.
  Tip #5 - If many of the pieces of paper seem to be flapping loose on the back, handle with extra care for a few moments and open the pattern on a large flat space, but upside down, and tape the errant pieces in place.
  Now the process continues with the sheet(s) of material laid down in a large flat space.  When I did my kitchen floor, I used my neighbor's concrete driveway (mine being grass and gravel) and seriously considered going three blocks to the park and using the parking lot surface.  In both cases, a broom to sweep off damaging stones is needed.
  The pattern is opened out on top of the material, adjusted to best fit (and match the pattern if any) and taped down as needed.  The ruler shape is then laid down along the drawn line and a tight line is drawn on the other side, transferring the outline back exactly to the material.  The ruler smoothes the little bobbles of the wheel and extends lines into corners where the wheel appears to leave them short.  Your notes on the paper assist in making any corrections.
  When rolling up the materials, take care as to how the roll is going to fit in the room - one way may run into things while unrolling while crosswise to that may allow fitting around pipes, etc., without risk of tearing.
  Tip #6 - While the method was created for sheet goods, it works for plywood, especially where multiple sheets are needed either just to fit the room or to enable getting the project into the room.  2007-05-08 2010-10-28 (edits, overview/intro, tub) Projects List
Cane made in a simple mannerCanes -After the operation on my knee, I bought a cane for about $45 at Elliott's Hardware where I was working and after a while, left it on the bus where it was never turned in as lost.  Instead of spending the money to buy another, I cut a piece off the thick slab of cherry that I had purchased to make wet tools back in 1991 while in Junction for glass blowing class and formed a handle to my favored shape and added a rope loop to keep from setting it down and losing track of it. I also wood burned my name into the shaft.  In spite of that, this is the third one I have built - mislaid or stolen. The shaft is about 36" long, 5/8" diameter birch dowel. The handle is a trapezoid shaped (wider at top) piece of cherry, sanded to fit the hand.  The loop, put over the wrist, permits dropping the cane to handle things, and the bead on the loop tucks under my belt to hang it there quickly - a feature used less than I expected because the light cane is so easy on the wrist.  This is actually a fairly sloppy version, the others being thicker and more smoothly carved, but I needed it and was angry as I lost the last one when it slipped off a cart of stuff at Home Depot and I think one of the staff took it.  2008-08-31  This one got snapped about 10" down from the handle when it projected through a grocery store mobility cart and the tip caught on the display as I turned a corner.  It was first repaired with a steel tube which was too heavy and unbalanced and then with an aluminum tube which is silicone glued at the top and pinned below to adjust the height. 2010-10-16   Projects List
Sewing -- Bags (Bag 2)- Down through the years I have done a fair amount of utility and repair sewing, including a padded backpack for Apple IIe computers to go to meetings and a padded cover for DeskCase to fly with it.  I had also made saddle bags big enough for groceries on the back of my bicycle. Recently, I have done a couple of things with bags.
Several years ago, I was commuting by bus to work and preferred to dress fairly lightly at work. While I had heavy jackets, my legs and fanny could get quite cold through the  dress pants while sitting on the aluminum or concrete benches provided at the bus stops.
This was my response.  The white bag, holds the yellow skirt neatly, but also has a 1/2" foam pad sewn in so when I sit on it, I am insulated from the cold. The long handle is looped in my belt to keep me from leaving it behind.
Bag sewn to carry windbreaker skirt and pad
These grey bags were made a few days ago. I had seen a story about a guy who looked at the designer grocery bags that have popped up and thought how awkward they were to carry empty. So he made his of thin ripstop nylon with a small drawstring stuff bag for carrying, the two with matching decorations.
Seeing no need for a separate small bag, I fooled around and came up with this design  The bag holds two 1 gallon milk containers and is as deep as the larger paper bags the stores used to give out.  The bottom is sewn rectangular. In line with the handle laying flat on the opened bag is a panel sewn on three sides with the opening at the bottom.  If the other handle is stuffed in the pocket first, it is a matter of seconds to use the fingers to stuff the rest of the bag in, producing a packet as on the right.  The rather small loop handles fit my hands and stay on my wrist when other stuff is carried in my hands.  I have used these a few times and find them great!  2008-02-08  Projects List
 And have started making them in other colors, yellow, green, and red and have sold one on +Bag sewn of yellow ripstop nylon
Bag sewn of ripstop to carry groceries and fold small
Bag sewn of red ripstop nylon Green bag in Stuffed form
Sewing - Bag 2 - Photographed at the very end of its life after being dragged out of storage for possible sale, this padded backpack was built to take Gigi's Apple II with two disk drives. speaker, and cables but no monitor as she did not need one, for going to meetings. The inner panel supplied secure mounting for the nylon rope ties that secured the shoulder straps which wer purchased as replacements from a camping supply place. The inner lining cloth is like sheeting while the outer is fairly heavy canvas and there is quilt padding (as I recall) between the two.  The black nylon strap with a friction buckle both holds the contents and the oversized flap which accommodates various thickness loads. It is retained with two stitches at the back as shown by the bends in the rear view. The width of the flap provides side protection. The computer was slid in back end first with its own retaining strap on the disk drives and the keyboard ended showing where the green plywood shows in the pictures. 2013-08-30



Pancho in white for rain or sun, to cover mobility scooterSewing -- Capes I had previously made a large white poncho with a T-shaped head opening from heavier nylon sports/windbreaker fabric for the purpose of keeping rain off me and my mobility scooter. (right, wrinkled out of the bag)  I found it effective against sun, but also found it too large when folded, requiring its own bag, and rather too much just for sun.  When I compared the opacity of the lighter ripstop nylon used for the bags above, I decided a white, sun reflecting, cape would be useful and it has proven so in the Texas sun.
 The fabric being 60 inches wide, I bought 60" (2.5 yards).  Pinned out flat, a string let me draw a 30" radius circle to cut the outside (below).  The inner circle was estimated for a snug fit and tried for size before sewing hems.  The neck was rounded at the corners (B).  All the edges were sewn with a rollover hemming foot on my machine. Velcro male and female about 3" long were applied to the collar line (B) to used for adjustable crossover fastening.  After use and finding the very light weight caused control problems, a pair of flat straps (C) were sewn from scraps of the fabric and positioned to allow inserting my middle finger with the flap still covering the back of my fingers while steering the mobility scooter.  Opposite the opening, a pocket (A) was sewn on.  The first was too short to hold all the fabric so it was extended.  The pocket faces the middle.  The first step in storage is to turn the pocket inside out which draws part of the cape inside.  My next step is take either the neck or the far edge and stuff it in then push the rest to follow. D and E show the closed packet and the cape part way out (or in.) The heavy wrinkling reduces quickly; these pictures were taken immediately after pulling it out of the pocket.  In the pocket it is about 2x8"
When in intermittent use, like on and off a bus, in and out of buildings, I don't stuff it in the pocket, but loosely roll it and set it in one of my bags, which reduces the wrinkling. The rougher hook Velcro piece faces out on my right collar to keep from snagging clothes and to position the cape correct side out (so the finger loops and pocket are under.)  It is light enough to admit breezes and opaque enough to sharply reduce sun heat. I have a large brimmed cloth hat I usually wear with it. 2009-06-28
Windbreaker Skirt - While traveling to work by bus, I had to wait for the buses at the start and for transfer.  I wore my nice work slacks which let my legs get cold from being thin, from being plastered against my legs by the wind.  Instead of wearing long johns under the pants - much too hot at work and nuisance to remove - or heavier pants and changing, I sought out both windbreaker pants to pull on over the pants and a simpler solution than that.  I had owned windbreaker pants at one point when I was skiing occasionally but didn't want to buy full ski gear - it worked nicely but could be too hot on the bus and I got larger and didn't want to buy another pair.
  So I came up with the idea of a wrap around skirt with a buckled strap at the belt line, which worked very well, especially if I maneuvered it so the wind did not enter the overlap slot. A quick release buckle allowed adjustment by sliding and fast removal.   Then I came up with an addition that was even better. The fabric was slightly bulky and awkward, more so than the ripstop used above, so I wanted a bag to keep the folded material in.  It didn't take long to realize that if I put a thin foam pad in the bag also, I could sit on the bag/foam on the metal, stone, and concrete seats and lose a lot less heat.  Worked very nicely. 2010-01-04, -10-16
Bed - Most of the furniture we sit on (as opposed to at, like desks) is purchased, the bed frame being one exception.  I have built all the beds I have slept on in my home since half way through college, most of them being platform beds with a plywood surface and urethane foam mattress or assemblage of foam mattress toppers of varying density from Sears.   My current bed now uses an all foam 8" combo Temperpedic/Urethane Foam mattress from Wal-mart that is wonderful [previously an innerspring mattress I didn't like much], but the construction is much the same as past, but since there is less likelihood it will be moved, it was built heavier.
  My standard queen or king bed platform has been the following: two panels of 1/2" plywood framed underneath with 1x2 on edge screwed and glued.  The surface is finished with polyurethane varnish after drilling 1/2" holes for ventilation about every 9" in each direction.  For the more moveable beds, these panels have a 1x4 on edge running between them down the center with the top flush and 1x4's around the edge aligned with the bottom of the 1x2's thus forming a lip to hold the mattress.  Everything is held together with 1/4" bolts about every 12" - 2" on the outside, 3" down the middle.  I weigh nearly 300 pounds and walk around on the bed when turning the mattress - it flexes but does not break.  Oh yes, the surface is about 24" from the floor and there are storage boxes under it.
  The headboard area has been treated differently on each bed, but basically all have had a 1x4 or 1x6 to bolt the bed to and some kind of shelf, perhaps doors, and mounts for reading lights and electric blanket controls.  Depending on location, the headboard may be screwed to the wall or rest on vertical boards that form the ends of the headboard box.  I don't have foot boards.  The foot legs have been handled in different ways, the most common being to extend the side rails enough to fasten 1x4 or 2x2 for legs and a diagonal brace under the bed if the head is not screwed to the wall.
Bed montage of details
Headboard with panels removed  The current bed is built similarly, but the side and foot rails are 2x6 with rounded over corners which are tenoned into slots in the corner posts which are rough cut 4x4's.  The headboard this time is quite shallow to give more room in the bedroom and is made of 1x4's across which are screwed to the wall and bolted to the platform, 1x8's on end for end legs and a 2x4 across the top to form a shelf. Tilted plywood panels give a surface to sit against, being a stop for pillows and concealing the wiring.  In and on the narrow shelf are two heating blanket controls, LED alarm, phone jack, ceiling fan speed control, dimmer outlet for reading, X-10 remote control console,  multiple outlets for plugging in the former plus heating pads and my wife's audio reading equipment.  A reading light is clamped to my side upright and a phone is mounted on the wall near the center. On my wife's side a box on wheels is sized for Braille paper and books. Both sides have slotted standards for shelf brackets.  Just recently, I added an extension to one of the foot legs (on my side) and put a carpeted cat climbing post and platform for our cat.  2007-08-09, 2008-02-08  Projects List
Fence Gates - When I moved in there were a couple of wood posts left over near the garage and a really rotten fence along the back with nicer cyclone fences on the side.  My neighbor put up board fences beyond the cyclone to block my view into his yard (and his into mine, thank you.)  I needed to do some stuff to keep dogs in the back yard when we let them out and to make it look better and I tore out (or did not preserve) the back fencing in the process of bringing in the big trencher to do the sewer line.  I prefer not to use concrete footings for the posts, buying longer posts and going deeper into the ground.  There are three gates in the yard which are beyond ordinary functioning: back fence, middle fence and driveway fence.
The back fence gate looks somewhat like the back fence - 6' upright planks on horizontal 2x3 rails in 8 foot sections - but a few features stand out.  The section with the gate is indented from the alley to accommodate the garbage cans which used to be collected back there and to allow for a large rose bush and the expected move of the gas meter from under the house to there, which never happened.  The actual opening is 12' wide which is gated with a 4' easily swinging gate and an 8' section that is hinged on one end and rests on a 4x4 footed post at the other.  The smaller gate rests on the foot when closed to take strain off the hinge post which does not have the fence to back it because it is a corner post.  To open the bigger gate, the foot must be lifted out of the grass and the gate carried as it is pivoted around the hinges.
Now about 15 years old and not kept finished, both pickets and rails are rotting and breaking.  I am going to replace it this year (08) using pressure treated wood.
The middle fence gate is part of a 4' white picket fence that runs from the corner of the garage to the corner of the house, cutting off the driveway from the backyard.  The gate itself is a permanently mounted simple 4' wide unit with a diagonal brace built on 2x3's. The fence itself is hung on loop and post hinges so it can be removed for greater access.  Until just recently, the gate was hung on a permanent post with a spring closer.  Over time, the joints in the gate worked loose and collected water and rotted. So I replaced the upright and doubled the horizontals, went from butt to strap hinges and moved it to mount on the fence panel to open back.  A latch replaces the spring.
The driveway fence is totally different.  It is three identical panels, 1/2" square steel tubing in 3x6' rectangles with 2x4" hardware cloth wired in the openings.  Welded to the bottom six inches from each end are 1 foot cross bars that keep the pieces upright.  One is wired by a loop to the side fence, while the other two are wired together to run from the house wall to overlap the first, forming a gate that is more difficult to open than it looks because the foot bars slide underneath. A slight lift is an easy move, lifting too far locks them. 2007-04-30  Projects List
Ramp - Two of the fastest construction jobs I did at the house involved Suzanne Whalen and her dogs. The first short version was the ramp shown at right with her and her Seeing Eye (r) dog Caddo working in her power wheel chair.  This version was built over the Valentine's day weekend when I learned that she had fallen in a manhole in Baltimore across from the NFB headquarters where she and my wife, Gigi, were attending a function and they would be delayed in returning with Suzanne in a wheelchair and no way to access her second floor apartment.  So she would stay at our house as she had often done.  By their return I had rented a wheel chair and built an 8' ramp - way too short - to get from the sidewalk to the porch.  The ramp, from the height 24" of the porch it should be 24' long for manual self propelled use, is now 17' leaving only a couple of feet of brick showing.  The first change was to lengthen it. When the surface shown with a cross grain began to deteriorate, two lengthwise panels were added on top and center support rails underneath.  Just recently those began flexing, so cross grain panels were added again, this time requiring special drilling to accommodate existing lag screws and structural bolts.  Obviously the basic design has not changed - 2x8's on side for tall edges, 2x4's flat lagged to the sides with 2x4's both flat and on edge in center for support. There are no hand rails as nobody using this one needs them. 2009-02-21 For the record, Caddo was retrained at Southeastern Guide Dog school after the accident before the picture was taken and Suzanne lost weight and got a lighter chair since it was taken. Suzanne with power chair and Caddo working up ramp.
Dog Surround - Earlier than Caddo (above) Suzanne's Seeing Eye guide dog Jesse gave many years of service and began to have a serious back problem which could be and was repaired with surgery.  At the time Suzanne was teaching every day and Jesse needed to wear an "Elizabethan collar" in plastic to block chewing on the sutures, so he stayed at our house and to keep him from blundering into things I built a 4x4' confinement space by using 1x2" wood and 1/4" plywood two full sides plus a 4x2' half side and door.  I have no photo of it, but the panels were stored and then cut down to make the cat box below.  In the confinement, the corners were C-clamped, not bolted and 1x2's were clamped across the top for stability without permanence.  Openings in the panels permitted Jesse to see out. 2009-02-21.
Cat House - The Cat House is the name my wife Gigi gave to a 2x2x4 foot box I rebuilt from the 4x4x4 foot surrounding panels I made to confine Suzanne Whalen"s dog Jessie in our living room after back surgery years back.  When we planned our trip to Louisiana for the second time with the cat full grown, it was obvious to me that having the litter box on the desk with the kitten wasn"t very neat or possible with the big cat, so I needed a full confinement that might put her on the porch.  I took the door to the dog confinement (2x4" with screening so the dog could see when laying down), and a cut down of the 4x4" side panel to give me 3 2x4" foot panels plus two 2x2" panels for a back wall and a hinged flip-up door with a screened half.  I used folding screen hinges kept unused for years to store the door flat against top and reverse it on opening. A flat support brace with notches cut in it caught the door both at the top and tilted it out at the bottom to let the cat into to litter at the back and the food and water at the front while keeping the dog out when it turned out the porch confinement was not needed and the House ended in the bedroom with my luggage, etc., on top of it. The floor is a sheet of Masonite to keep it thin in access and storage.
As shown at right, the box is assembled with 1/4" bolts through the edge rails. Because of the failures assembling it on end as shown, it is now assembled with the door on the bottom, which is much easier - level bolt alignment, don't have to invert to install the back. [1" shorter bolts are now used.]
Door to slide up in end of Cat House, trapped to keep with end panel
Cat house construction
Cat house construction
Cat house construction
The full swinging door makes limiting escape while reaching in pretty unlikely.  So I added a sliding door access to the back end with the size matched to the end of the cat trap to transfer recovering cat.  The framing traps the door and the very flat handle lets the panel be stored as it was before, even thickness with the folded-back door. Framing is screwed not glued to permit door removal. 2009-02-21
Deck Rack - is a variation on the DeskCase below which is still around.  The problem with Case in this case is that when pulled up to the recliner, the long lower supports do not go under the chair lip and the leg support runs into the back panel.  So the Rack was built to accommodate Gigi's acquisition of a laptop computer along with her portable Braille device for use in her Braille proofreading work. Shorter feet with thinner supports allow the wheels to fit under the frame of the chair until they strike the chair support. A thin lip the same height as the computer avoids bending the wrists going over the edge.  In addition to the thicker back lip, a flat 1x2" brace under the center adds stiffness to the 1/2" plywood panel, which is actually the same size as the DeskCase but extends closer to her even with the chair reclined.  The silver block is a lead ingot because of the lowered weight without the box and feet.  The connection between the side rails plus roller feet and the top   Like the Welded Table and Solar Tower Construction 3/4" tubing is telescoped inside 1" and the connection is fixed with 1/4" nuts brazed to the tubing with short (1/2") hex head bolts (see inset.) The inner tubing was cut to the exact height for the bottom of the plate to rest over the chair, so it can be raised by adjustment but it will have to be cut if we every want to lower it. As shown in the inset, the caster plates are screwed only on one side. I considered adding some guard for feet or support to make the foot wider. The rough appearance is due to taking phones while still developing and the trouble getting it away from Gigi to sand and paint it.  Besides, many of my projects are only finished enough to work.  2010-10-03
DeskCase a roll around desk that becomes a case, montageDeskCase - is a box about the size of a large suitcase that opens out into to a roll around desk. Conceptually, it is a tray that forms the bottom of the box and a cover that forms the upright of the desk.  Wheels can remain attached to the cover for rolling around as a suitcase or they may be moved to the bottom forming a platform to stack other stuff on or removed and carried inside.  The parts are held together with 1/4" bolts, T-nuts and short steel straps plus properly placed holes in the wheel supports.
It was originally built in the late 1970's to hold an Apple II computer with a small monitor and was thus sized for a snug fit because the equipment stays on the tray and inside the box while being moved.  The first case had a canvas cover to protect it and was checked as luggage for one round trip on a plane.  Casters are mounted in pairs on two wood plates. (B & C) When closed, the wood plates help bolt the bottom to the top.  If the plates are removed, two short steel plates fasten the tray to the lid, while two identical plates always connect the tray to the lid as a desk or a case.
One current version of the DeskCase is 30" by 21" by 10".  The desk height is adjusted with additional plates if needed.  About 5 copies of DeskCase have been made, 2 for a school district, 1 for a friend and 2 for our house, one of which was destroyed because of weakening modifications.  For all practical purposes the length and thickness of a DeskCase are unrestrained, but the width (middle dimension) which forms the upright must be limited between the lowest possible desk (even with spacers under) and too high to be useable.  The caster supports raise the unit about 4" (2" casters plus mounts) and the edge of the tray adds about 1.5"  The 21" case above has 24.25" under the tray and the lip is 26" off the floor.  2005-07-29 
The boxes were built closed and sawn apart after the glue dried for perfect alignment without having to glue and nail narrow strips around the tray.  The tray bottom and sides are 1/2" plywood, the large flat of the lid is 1/4" plywood.  At least one had additional T-nuts added in the bottom of the tray so the caster plates would bolt there and other stuff was stacked on top - handy mover, kept the contents flat, awkward to hold the plates against the bottom while bolting.  One version had a hinged portion of the bottom back that lifted to give more leg room.
In the montage, (C) shows the T nuts that are used throughout to fasten the 1/4"-20 machine screws.  In later versions, it was found that careful placement of these t-nutted holes eliminated the need for the second hole on each side that has a connector plate attached to it here.  The extra plates, which are needed when the wheel plates are removed, are bolted to the front of the tray or kept at hand loose.  In ordinary use - as when taking the computer to a meeting, the connector plate holding the tray to the lid is undone from the lid and the tray is set on chair arms or flat surface.  Packing is added, which may include accessories, presentation material or just towels or other pads. The lid with caster plates is picked up, reversed end to end and placed down over the tray with the wheels on the front side.  A longer machine screw is placed through the hole visible in both A & B in the caster near the box, this hole lining up with a T-nutted hole in the lip of the tray.  The rear, side connector plate is pivoted up and a bolt placed through a matching hole. When all the bolts are snug, the case is lifted off its resting surface and set front down on the casters.  Upon arrival, the process is reversed.  If the caster plates are to be removed, then the link from the lid is done by the connector plates using the same holes. 2006-03-13.  Projects List

Modular Storage - Book Boxes - Back when I started buying books to keep and was living in rented quarters, I knew I was going to be unhappy taking apart bookshelves and shipping them or throwing them away while packing the books in boxes.  So I began building modular bookshelves that were strong enough to ship the books in.
  Originally, I made these as respectable sized furniture, but strong enough to move full, but after building a memorable monster out of solid birch and finding it was beyond my capability to move when full, I settled down to single shelf units (or two shelves when made for small light books.)  I actually cut the birch unit into two pieces.  When I move, I tape flat cardboard over the face, packing in extra books or other stuff, and wrap in brown paper. 
Originally, my units were 30" long (like the desk case above or the bookcase below right) except when I was on a metric kick and made them 75 cm.  Although I still have several of these, I found that this was too long to handle comfortably when loaded and threading through doorways or down stairs, so I began making them 24" (or 60 cm).  I also began making them mostly of 1/2"  plywood with glued-on 1/4" plywood backs, again like desk case.  The 30" units have the advantage of allowing more artistic arrangements and a 3/4" bottom board allows offsetting the boxes to make a more pleasing arrangement. [below right]
I also use both size cases as structure in vertical shelves where the added shelves rest on pins in holes in the sides. [below center] 2007-03-02  Projects List

Shelf stack on roller base The office stack on the left is 2 feet wide, set on a 2x2 foot welded frame with casters.  It is all just plain shelf units, each of different heights to accommodate different needs. A molding strip adds 1/2" to standard wood widths where they are short for the content.


The living room stack on right is a permanently positioned set of 30" units installed on a base of white cement bricks with offsets for visual interest and to fill the wall space.  The two center units are sized for the tall books in them. One is birch and the other 1/2" plywood.  The top unit holds many years of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (since sold.)  Sized to fit vertically it is also exactly deep enough to have another row behind.  The bottom one in the picture is a two shelf unit for heavy books.  There is one more unit below, the top of which supports the phone shown in the corner.  All of this is next to a recliner my wife uses, the back of which shows lower right.  The room has 9 foot ceilings. Bookselves made of modular boxes offset
Bookshelves of modular boxes and upright support panels The book cases, left, are a mix of modular and structured.
The 2 foot wide stack to the left is modular.  The two top units hold my treasured set of onion skin 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, the top box being higher to hold some special table top books and the indexes.  The next four are fairly standard except for the second from the bottom which is deeper for Braille note books. (Another stack, in the dining room, has a pair of custom boxes for Gigi's Braille Bible.)
The unit on the right has a top frame and two 30" modular units holding together vertical shelf supports, the top shelf being pinned to them.  The second shelf from the top and the third from the bottom are actually the top of the modules.  The extra books are packed into modules when moving is done.  As you can see, the bookshelves are well used rather than just decorative or our decorating style is Clutter. 2007-03-05
The unit at right is one of several early modular boxes built to hold LP's and tapes and is about 40 years old. Others of the type had flush doors pivoted with screws. This one has a lazy Susan bearing between its bottom and a base plate so the TV and VCR's set on top of it can be aimed at the dining room, living room or office for viewing and remote access. Lazy Susan bearings are neat, being thin sheet metal with small ball bearings in between that cost little and can take hundreds of pounds, but only straight down vertical loads.  The name comes from the turntables put on dining room tables for condiments when maids no longer served the table.  2007-03-05 Phonograph records in modular cube on swivel with TV & VCR


Modular box to support weight bar and weightsWeight Set Storage - One of the neater units I made was a holder for a weight set.  I bought a small weight set after trying my nephew-in-laws' and finding it worked like massage to take kinks out.  The set consists of a long bar, two short bars, and disks that fit on either.  I needed to store the long bar with some disks on it ready to use, the short bars with disks ready to use, and the extra disks.  After dummying up some different arrangements, I came up with the arched design with the base dovetailed together to form a tray to retain the disks and smaller bars.  It looks halfway interesting, sits on modular book boxes the same size and acts as a hand rail when getting out of bed. The details show dovetailing on bottom and the front and back lips are dovetailed lap joints and are beveled to let hand weights fit as shown and rest on bottom.   Oh, and I built the bed also.  2007-03-02 -04-23 
And more recently built a tricky shelf to sit on the curved ends to hold night shirts and sox. 2009-08-02 Projects List

Stackable Shelves - Having tried a number of other designs, I am currently entranced with stackable shelves (defined below as open front and top, so they stack on right, left, and back edges.)  These are all 24" long and mostly about 12" wide with 1-by lumber back and sides.  The bottom is usually 1/4" or sometimes 3/8" or 1/2" plywood if the contents would tend to bend 1/4".  Most of these are just plain units made tall enough to hold a set of contents.  As a unit, all the contents can be moved at once.  The stack is usually mounted on a frame with 4 caster wheels to allow movement of the stack although a few stacks have casters screwed to the bottom unit.
Examples are shown below.
Among the more interesting modifications to the basic design are:
  A shallow raised rim along the bottom to keep items from rolling or sliding out, such as hammers having handles supported.
  A divider that exactly aligns one side, to hold sand paper, the other being adequate for a heavy stapler and staples.
  Narrow supports on the side which hold a plate on which a grinder is mounted, stored upside down. Turning the plate over sets it in place for use with alternate wheels, jigs for alignment and tools stored within the box.
  A unit with a tool box type upper that slides in under cleats so the same handle allows carrying the double unit.
I have also settled on 11x11" smaller trays, these fitting side by side in the 24" units, but holding smaller collections of items.

Storage Types - When I began marking my various storage devices and places so that I could make a computer list of them and their contents, I began defining names for the containers I was using or building.  The last time I looked there were numbers assigned to about 180 of these.

is plastic case, open on top  Example: wash basin
is Case but open up (a deep Tray) Wood metal or cardboard
is closed, attached cover  Example: casting sand box - heavy sided, plywood lid. Cardboard box.
is upright with flip over handle, round or square, metal or plastic, often a 5 gallon plastic grey or white with lid. [I have literally dozens, over 100 at one point. A few. Once I could get these for free or 50 cents, like pickles at McDonalds, then they went to plastic bags and store buckets are $2.99-3.99 each.]
is open one side, like a book case, occasionally as in a suitcase (trunk?) [many shown below]
is flat board, needing box lid for protection  Example: stained glass layout
is special purpose cover not fasted permanently which makes a box  Example: stained glass work space cover
is lid with sloping top surface  Example: cover for 2x2 storage trays, cover for annealing kiln
is open two sides, usually top and one long side  Example: see above and below
is open on 3 (front, top, back) or 5 sides (plus 2 ends), with a central handle for carrying. [photo].
is open on top, with 4 shallow sides, (a shallow Bin)  Example: shallow fused glass show trays
is tray with cross bar handles, taller than thick, for protruding stuff   Example: Metal pieces store,
                          2007-03-02   Projects List

Storage stack in shop/garage The units shown in this section are in my shop. This one is near the entry door. The white corner at top is a 4" tray now designated for garden & lawn stuff..
The yellow box next is Forge accessories including hardies for the anvil, short sledge, large ball peen, and tongs.  The anvil is mounted on the end of a log outside with a bent sheet metal cover over it.
The wood unit with the partially pulled out drawer is glassblowing tools.  There is a tote handle on the drawer unit which fits BELOW battens so that the whole double unit can be carried with its handle..  The drawer holds the more commonly accessed tools, the bottom holds those needed for a full session (puffer with hose for example.)  Note the visible dovetails in both units.  A finger hole gets the drawer started out.
 The next shelf down is glass cutting and soldering support items.
The remainder is in the next photo down. 2007-03-03
Storage stack in shop/garage - bottom  This bottom section shows a welding parts box (yellow), a bicycle parts shelf (with erroneous hammer), a collection of small pinch and crow bars (white), a hammer shelf with lip, and the steel tubing frame with casters.
  The weld box is curious because it is open on top, but it is also open on the far end.  Originally built to hold a reciprocating saw with the blade in place, it has been recycled and holds welding tips, cutting torch handle, Vise Grip clamps, etc.  The welding tanks, rod and hoses are across the entrance and welding is commonly done outside the door.
 Both yellow boxes have rough hand cut dovetails.
The top unit is actually part of the measurement section of my wind tunnel with a Plexiglas tunnel area above.  The long wind supply is stored on end elsewhere.

The next unit is a 19" rack panel mounted Variac and CD power supply built years ago and mounted in a shelf by adding vertical panels to screw into which are sized to inset the panel for clearance of the knob and plugs.  A small left over area to left of knob is used for storing cables.

The next is the grinder mount mentioned above.  Unlike many shelves it has hand holes on the end to permit carrying from near the top, because of the weight and bulk.  The small square batten ends show in line with the handle.  When used, the grinder can be put on a bench or turned over in place, resting on the battens in use.

Next down is masonry tools then punty parts and molds for glassblowing with a shelf of hammers on the bottom with a caster plate underneath. The top as shown is about 6' off the floor.

Storage stack in shop/garage
These two units are actually in the stack shown just above, merged to one image enlarged to show some similar details. In each case, a tool is attached to a mounting board which holds the tool upside down on cleats while accessories fit below and around it.
The upper unit holds a Sears dovetailing jig and the gap above the board reveals that the board can be slid out while stacked.  In the corner is an older router now dedicated to this task.  The triangular board it sits on has a hole drilled so the dove tailing bit can remain in position all the time - it isn't easy to adjust right. Other items are the edge guide and rods for the router and a plastic box holding other bits, mostly used on the newer router
The lower unit holds grinder, which is much heavier, over assorted wheels and pads and a rotary grinding rig used to make glass blowing pipes. Because the unit is much heavier, there are hand holes cut in the ends (visible on the right) and the cleats are split.  This permits control of the board when carrying.  The grinder is normally used turned over on the cleats to bring it up to working height when set on an outdoor low table shown under the router table but the gap above the wood plate accommodates a cleat on the plate to clamp in a vise on a work bench. 2010-03-19
Storage stack in shop/garage This upright unit is one of three built at one point and while all three are in use, in one sense they are all failures.  Built to carry tools, they are too deep for easy access and small items get lost.  Medium tools fall out when upright and the 1/4" back is too light to carry weight on the back.  This Red one holds metal leftovers. Obviously nothing can be put on top of it, but it is strong enough to move out of the way when needed.  A Yellow unit now sits on its side holding wood leftovers, simply a convenient box.  A Blue using holds stained and flat glass sheets with top access like this one and with stuff sticking out, very sharp, but mostly out of the way.
Storage tote with wide ends for stacking. A much modified tote.  Originally the handle was mounted on 1x2 verticals with long bolts through them. and the tray was 30" long.  This meant it toted a lot of stuff, but took up a lot of space and nothing could be stacked on it.  So the verticals were removed, it was cut down to 24" and wood panels were drilled vertically for the bolts and the handle was inset into the ends for a level top.  The lower end of the bolts are flush T-nuts and the upper countersunk washers and nuts. 2007-03-04
This is a short (~3') stack holding current project tools. Uniquely, the bottom box has casters screwed directly to it and has a fairly high side lip.  It holds air tools, a fancy aluminum vise and a Dremel-type tool set.

The top unit is newly built to hold full sheets of sandpaper and sanding accessories, including a tear off blade and holders on one side and a big stapler and accumulation of staples on the other.  The center divider is screwed, not glued, in place.  This box holds two sets of items that had wandered about my shop and house, getting in the way for years.

The 1x4" unit below has hand torches and small propane tanks and the one below that is wax handling for metal casting, including a variable soldering iron using a dimmer with special tips to shape wax.  1x4

The six inch unit holds a variety of paint brushes and has a tote like handle down its center along with the lip that shows. Not full, it had sand paper mixed with the brushes before the top unit was built and is a candidate for reuse with the brushes moved to a shallower unit.


Storage stack in shop/garage

The unit below is a router table that starts at a 2x2' box. It has a thick "bottom" which forms the working surface - a 1/4" Masonite plate provides a replaceable surface and matches the thickness of the Lexan polycarbonate mounting plate for the router [B] which is fastened down with flat head 10-24 machine screws into T-nuts in the thick plywood deck.  The fence pivots on a bolt at the back and is positioned by a clamp action on a 2x2" board across the front.

Router table built on 2x2' module



 These two photos show a lid on a stack of 2x2 foot trays that were originally built for selling small fused glass wind chimes at craft fairs.  The small holes in the lower yellow narrow panel have T-nuts on the other side and took bolts through 1x2" A-frame supports.
 The lid provides rain shedding angles and the leatherette provides sun resistant rain shield. The lower wrap is nailed to a 1x2" hinged frame.  This stack has sat outside since about 1993.  The base is cinder blocks supporting an X of wood raising the whole.  An awning is on the wall above it also.
Storage stack beside shop/garage

The shelf on the left holds fired clay sagging forms. 2x1 foot 1x12 sides.
Storage shelf for clay forms


Welded step same size as storage stackWelded Steps - After using various boxes, I welded up a set of 3 2x1x0.5 foot steel tubing frames with expanded metal on top.  These are constructed so that, by running conduit through horizontal tubes they can be made into a set of rising steps for access or exercise. They could also be made into rough raised tables with inserts in the vertical tubes, with a different welding arrangement (table) Mostly they are used for stepping up to blow glass into a mold and supports for welding.  Have also been carried to aid an injured person to climb into a vehicle with high step in and provided a temporary roll around seat when placed on a board with casters with a seat board on top.  Painted bright colors for rust protection. 2007-04-23  Projects List
Construction Modules - Working from the basic idea of the 0.5x1x2 foot steps and their design to feed conduit through horizontally, I considered making one with a vertical socket and instead went with these 0.5x2x2 foot units of a sparse design. The two at the top and bottom of the picture have 4 corner 1" tubes open at one end and closed at the other so 1/2" nominal conduit (cheap & light) can fit inside. The end of these is against the side of a square cross tube so that, in this set up, ground tubes could add stability or create an overhead extension.  The middle unit has the corner tubes all the way through and has 1/4" nuts braised to the midpoint to be set screws. (Barely visible on left front upright.)  The unit is intended to support the solar tracker below.   Using some shorter pieces of tubing, I used the top and bottom units as tables for welding and detail work, together and with boards with recessed holes to keep the tubing from sinking into the ground.
Tower also shown in full length below   2004-02-04
Solar tracking  A while back, I started working on a small solar tracking device using an oval mirror and copper foil mounting techniques with a lazy susan bearing to mount above a 4" tube and direct sun down to a 45 mirror aimed in a window it would be driven by servos, perhaps with radio control. That got squelched when I realized that the large eaves and placement of trees made implementing it a problem.
Medium beam up -  So I began working on a gimbal mount for a larger rectangle of 1/4" plate mirror I had scrounged from curbside trash disposal. The design called for capturing the sun with a follower and beaming it up to a 45deg mirror high enough to get over bushes and into the kitchen window or to mirrors mounted to send the beam down the side of the house to side windows.Here
 The first construction step was to shape and glue an aluminum strap to the center back of the mirror to provide pivot points and an arm for the drive cable ends. (shown best in bottom image) This was drilled before mounting to reduce risk to the mirror.
  Then 1/2" square steel tube was welded to make a frame surrounding the mirror. This was drilled at tapped for 1/4-20 bolts in the center of each side. Bolts were threaded in from the long sides to fit holes in the aluminum bracket for pivot points, stop nuts and washers centered the mirror in the frame (various views of the bolts in all three images)
   Then a set of calculations were done to determine the likely height of the ends.  At my latitude, the sun elevation angle varies from about 54 in the winter to 82 in the summer.  When reflected, the beam moves through twice the change of angle so if I wanted the beam to go up to an overhead mirror, the mirror angle with the frame would be least if the frame were tilted at the halfway point.  This was tested with temporary wood supports clamped to a tool tray and then a support was welded of 1/2" flat and 1/2" square tube steel with bent flat mounted at the top so bolts through the frame would pivot easily.  All the pivot bolts are fixed in the full rectangle frame, pivoting in holes in the mirror frame and the upright supports. 2009-02-15
Mirror on gimbal mount
The pictures at right show the plate for mounting the servos and beginnings of brackets for the cables. Rather than drilling and tapping the steel frame for mounting these, each is being clamped in place or bolted to aluminum. 
The servo plate (upper) is 1/8" aluminum 3" wide from stock purchased long ago to make a Braille printer. It is cut out on the sides and tapped 8-32 for the servo mounts and clamp bolts (reversed) and for two angle stock brackets along the edge.  In the picture a small C-clamp and a clothes pin are holding the brackets to which the ends of the sheathes of the push-pull cables have been epoxied. As in the lower image, the upright held by the C-clamp is too narrow to take the sideways torque when held by the one bolt the upright will take, I now realize.  Wider uprights like the one being held by the clothes pin will either replace or be added to the narrow uprights.

In the lower image, the other end of the control cable is shown.  The thicker yellow portion in both pictures is a sleeve inside of which runs a tinned metal cable to which the ends are soldered. One end (lower) has the clamp end on a threaded post for length adjustments. The cables are standard radio controlled aircraft items sold in varying lengths - I bought 3' and an extra pair of ends and cut to size. As shown (lower) the mirror mounting bracket of 1/8" aluminum is too thick for the clamp, so a 1/16" strap has been bolted on to provide a thinner edge.

Still to be done are making a bracket plate for the mirror frame for the other cable, balancing the frame, and programming the controller.

A controller from Parallax that is on hand will be used to make a program to check if the sun is out, scan for the location,  and then follow it using photo resisters or cells to detect the sun and the aimed beam.

2010-10-04 So far this has not been made functional - the servos have been unable to move the heavy mirror reliably, especially that side scan to follow the sun during the day to the extremes.  I have considered a stepper motor for that function.

2011-09-28 After taking some steps to perhaps run the mirror by RC remote and finding some neat choices, I have decided to give up on this project as running in and out and climbing ladders to mount mirrors is beyond my capability.
I realized several months ago that there is a flaw in the carrying out of the design - the mirror should be thinner and the main pivot should be up and down the slope, not across. Instead of trying to move the heavy outer frame to follow the sun minute by minute, the lighter mirror and solitary bracket should be doing that and the heavy outer bracket changed with the seasons.

Servo mount on mirror gimbal
Solar Transfer Tower - My land slopes from the street to the alley and the ground on the southwest end is about 5 feet below the house floor.  So if I collect sunlight in the back yard using the units above or below, I need to transfer it in some way to the windows of the house.  This tower and top mirror was built to match with the kitchen window over the counter although it would work with other windows on the side of the house.  The conduit uprights are ten feet long so the center of the mirror is about eleven feet up.  In this image a crude support holds a fragment of mirror to play with the design. There is no adjustment to the tower and there needs to be something to plumb it or aim it.  I also expected that a beam of light reflected straight up to the 45 degree mirror would always hit the same spot on the house but even slight adjustments to move the spot on the slanted mirror result in the aimed spot moving.  Need to work on the geometry. 2010-02-04

Work Frame - The solar rig at right was pretty much destroyed in the hail storm, so the top and bottom pieces are being reused as shown below, which is actually sort of a recap of an earlier one.
Because of the welding pattern, not only do the short vertical pieces provide a support in mid-air, but one pair of the side rails permits putting 1/2" conduit through to extend the length - in this case to make a chest height platform for repainting the storm windows that were removed for the house painting. At this height I don't have to bend or squat to reach all parts. 2013-08-30

Large beam sideways - This project was stimulated by two large pieces of mirror scrounged from curbside trash dumping and a gate closer from my brother-in-law at Christmas when he replaced his hit by lightning.  The frame is based on two 2x2' square frames welded of 1.25" steel tube, used because I had it on hand when the project for which it was purchased was discarded so it sat rusting for a couple of years. Both frames are welded so two side tubes are open all the way through - not mitered or otherwise blocked. In the bottom  frame this will allow insertion of long tube to make the base wider if I need it.  On the upper frame one tube is used as the pivot. A design factor is to avoid putting screws or bolts in these tubes.  The angle from vertical - braced by three supports - is manually adjustable using overlapping thin angle steel and a V bed clamp and will be set/changed as needed in slowly changing height of sun, while the pivot of the frame around the angled post is controlled by the closer to follow the moving sun. Control, at least at start, will be as simple as possible - after manually aiming the starting point, a photo resister on a pole and extension wire will be set inside the reflected sun light. When the sun moves and leaves the detector dark, the motor will come on and move the mirror until the light hits the detector. A second photo resister will note when the sun goes dark and a stop limit switch will shut the motor of to keep it from stalling. I would like to find a simple shut down circuit that notices the increased current of a stalled motor.
This unit will be used to direct sun in the doorway of the shop or into the shade north of the shop where I work some times. I have used the existing glass for heat by manually placing it. It may also be used to beam light down the side of the house for redirection through things into the house for lighting effects.


Mirror frame for solar tracking with large glass
Mirror frame for solar tracking with gate closer
Welded adjustable height tableWelded Table - when I needed a table for sorting stuff, I welded up an interesting choice.  The top is a frame like the welded steps 2x1x0.5' but the 4 corner tubes were welded to be open at the bottom and closed at the top. Also, one long horizontal tube was left off to permit getting knees in if used as sit down work station.  The lower frame was made similarly except that both long tubes were left off on one side and the vertical tubes were made longer (and open on top of course) to permit more adjustment.  The tubing is all 1" square.  On the side of each of the eight vertical tubes about 2" from the open end, a 1/4" nut was braised over a hole drilled in the tube and a short machine screw with a slotted head was installed - the slotted screw permitting adjustment with a coin or any pocket knife.  Four pieces of 3/4" square tubing were cut (18" long) which insert in the tubes, permitting adjustment from about seated height to a low standing height.  Replacement insert tubes would permit lowering the frame top to 17" off the floor or extending it to waist height or more.  Exact length tubes would permit standing on it (not safe with bolt "set screws") as would drilled holes with pins.   An available 5/8" plywood shelf was cut to fit the width and overhang the open side by 8" for greater work space or seated use. 2007-03-03  Projects List
Welded Bench - In these somewhat cluttered pictures you can make out the frame of my adjustable height work bench.  After getting polyneuropathy as part of a bout with Lyme disease, I found I can't stand OR sit for extended periods. So I made this bench to complement my heavy standing bench of 2x material.  There are frames at each end which carry a pulley to support a lifting wire.  The frames are 1x1 top and bottom and 3/4"x3/4" uprights which on the bottom fit into 1x1 sockets to allow taking it apart.  The uprights are sanded smooth and waxed.  The bench surface is a 3/4" plywood sheet with the corners cut to clear the uprights with a 3/4" reinforcing strip under the access side for stiffness. The top is screwed down to the end pieces.  The end pieces are 1"x1" steel tubing welded into an L shape with a 3/4x3/4" connecting piece across the lower back (a second piece could be installed but the top serves the purpose. In the center of each end piece an aluminum 1/8"x 2" flat 6" long spans the rails and is drilled 1-1/2" to hold a flanged replacement bearing from a wheelbarrow wheel.  Through the 1/2" hole in the bearing a short piece (about 12") of 1/2" rod is fitted into 1/2" thin wall conduit and pinned with cotter pins to span the length of the table.  1/16" inch steel cable is wound around the rod, then up to the pulley and down to a bolt drilled through to receive the cable which fits into the frame and is tightened to clamp the cable.  Fender washers on the 1/2" rod keep the cable from overrunning the ends and a long 1/4" bolt acts as a handle to turn the shaft.  At first the unit would jam on raising and lowering, requiring rapping the frame to free it, but adjustment of the end frames to square, waxing, sanding and working with the alignment made movement much easier.  2008-01-27   Projects List Welded adjustable bench

Sun Shield - Actually shown just above the start of the projects list, but discussed with a drawing in the glass stuff here. 2010-01-04


Basic brick BBQ pit. This is the BBQ pit I built in the back yard.  What makes it interesting is the flexibility.  It started with building the grill from expanded steel mesh (with diamond shaped holes) exactly the right size to fit in a 55 gallon barrel if I wanted that style.  The grill and charcoal support (insert) fit inside each other with bent over edges and 1/2" welded link chain hangs the charcoal support.  It is adjusted by lifting the loop of chain above the grill, pulling the chain through the holes in the grill and then sliding a wire with a loop on one end through the chain at two points.  Thus the charcoal tray can be tilted front to back or side to side or kept level for adjusting cooking temps.
This grill was then mounted in a welded steel tube frame that runs fore and aft on top and side to side on the bottom (hidden in grass.)  If desired the grill can be used this way.  However, it is normally set in the top lip of a rack of about the same height to bring it up to cooking level.  This rack has an expansion mesh top and spends most of its time in the brick pit.  The brick pit is nothing but three walls laid on a concrete foundation, sized to exactly fit the grill base.  The sheet metal is in three pieces: a peaked roof top with a steel tubing frame inside and a wooden handle in front; a bottom panel with support angles and a door for sliding in a rack of charcoal or wood chips; and a middle panel with angle iron braces that blanks off the space and rests on the lower panel and the grill support.  The lid fits in angle iron rails bolted to the brick which are visible at the upper edge of the picture below.  The lid can be tilted up and held with a rod or slid off the back to hang by the lip with the handle.  There are some holes in the brickwork for ventilation and adding a torch to boost temp.  Projects List
This picture shows the lid and front panels removed and the aluminum melter set on a flat pad on the lower base with the BBQ grill set off to one side in the grass.  Besides this unit, several additional pieces: the Firehole foundry furnace, the coal forge, and the small kilns can be moved into this fire resistant cubby hole for use at a good working height. 2005-01-14 Can melting furnace as used
These are stored on a 7' rack legged to working height with an arched lid as shown below.  The arched lid is a neat project in itself.  The skin is corrugated steel with the dips and valleys running lengthwise across 1/2" thin wall conduit that is bent to a curve thus making a stiff cover.  Here the conduit is extended to make arms to reach the hinge point which is on the end of pair of sharply bent supports that put the pivot further back.  In use the lid is propped up as shown by a chain across the extension arm and withstands the heat when an item is used in place - most often the FireHole foundry melter.   Projects List Shield for foundry and forge items.

Good Practices

Driving - My original private driving instructor was gung-ho on what is now called defensive driving, including picking routes that offered less risk of accidents.  I have since taken Defensive Driving courses several times, all but once to reduce insurance and get education, once to void a ticket.
  I back into my urban driveway in the big SUV that I drive for a friend to likes to own a car even if he is blind.  I don't currently own a car.  I have noticed that it is much easier to drive straight into the driveway and back out, in terms of driving tension, but I do the other because the large rear end of the car blocks my view backing up and we are on the walking route to the nearest elementary school about 2 blocks away.  After a couple of close calls, I started backing in so that I could drive straight out and have a good view of the sidewalk and street.  But I don't think it is just habit that makes the other pattern easier - when leaving one is naturally going slow and being in reverse is slow; when arriving, one has been moving at 35-65 miles per hour and driving straight in and quickly is easy.  When backing in, I find turning across the street to back, with variable parked cars, is a great change from driving at speed and I manage to get misaligned on the driveway rather too often.  I am not going to change because of the safety and because parking that way puts the driver door next to my porch stairs.  2007-12-07

No Car - We currently don't own a  car although I drive a gas guzzler (12.6 mpg) somewhat reluctantly.  I had owned cars continuously from college years when my parents gave me a used 1960 VW Beetle to wean me off the 1950 Chevy 4 door sedan that my father drove to the train station to commute.  After that car broke, I drove two 1967 VW Squarebacks in succession for a decade while also owning a school bus converted to a camper for 7 years, then a Toyota Corolla, then a Chevy G-10 Van. When the van started to break, Gigi suggested we might not get a replacement car for a year until we had paid off the loans on her blindness related computer equipment.  By this time, I was working at Elliott's Hardware and taking the bus occasionally and biking a couple of times a week for exercise.  Gigi had been taking the bus downtown to work all along.  I did some more serious bus test runs, we got rid of the van, and occasionally rented Enterprise small cars on the weekends.  As time passed, I realized that my long term tension with driving was gone:  I had no stress about my car being destroyed or damaged, most of the time I never had to drive and certainly not in rush hour, and so on.  After I left Elliott's, a coworker of my wife revealed that he had a car, having owned one since college, and needed a driver.  At first I would take the bus over to his place to do an couple of hours driving on a volunteer basis - easy since a bus to his place stopped about 6 blocks away from my home and literally at his front door.  But it took an hour out of my day beyond the driving so we suggested that I keep the vehicle at my place so I could drive right over and I could use it for my errands and we would split gas proportionately.  So that is handy, aside from the fact that it is a Ford Expedition and around town gets 12.9 miles per gallon or almost 20 cents a mile at today's prices.  When his divorce became final and we went shopping for insurance, my good record, my taking defensive driving again online this time for a discount, not commuting in the thing, and early payment discount got insurance from his previous company with me as designated driver for about half of what they were paying with the wife driving with an a couple of accidents. Farmers.
Non-Owner Insurance - When I gave up the van and called the insurance company to tell them we would not be buying right away, I was introduced to Non-Owner Insurance.  This serves two purposes - when you do buy a vehicle, you don't get dumped in the expensive pool while they spend a couple of months searching to see if you owned a car without insurance when you said you didn't own a car and it covers you when you drive a third party car meaning I didn't have to pay the rental company $10 a day for insurance on top of $9.99 daily weekend special rate.  I was chicken and triple checked, but did good.  The only insurance claim was when hail hit the rental car while it was parked in the drive.  Years earlier I was told I could not get insurance on me, it had to be on a car; told by the same company that offered it to me - State Farm. 2007-12-02


Tools Made

The image at right gives details of a pair of super deep socket tools. [click for larger image]  Why did I need them? 
 The lower left corner shows the two main reasons - below is a 4-corner clamp for frames or boxes and it uses nuts on 1/4" threaded rods that are fastened to one side of the plastic corner and slide through the other side.  Above is a 2 ft long 1/2" all thread with many nuts used for mounting whirligigs. While there are costly split nuts that will slide on the rod and turn on the threads, it would take more than using jam nuts.
  At the top is the first one built: in brown copper for the 1/4" thread. While playing around with scrap on hand, I found that a 1/4" drive 7/16" socket would fit almost exactly into a 1/2" copper connector. With a short length of hard copper tubing and two of the sockets, I silver soldered (because of the chrome on the sockets) in order - socket, connector, pipe, connector, socket. It can be turned with a drill, a 1/4" drive ratchet, or by hand. When turned by hand, the 1/4" rod can  extend all the way through the socket for hand tightening. When using a drill for fast spinning, I use a 1/4" hex to 1/4" square drive bit sold for electric screwdrivers as shown along the right.
Extra deep socket tool for nuts on threated rod.
  The other socket was built very recently for disassembling the whirly mount to install a longer rod for better clearance. Since the job did not require a lot of force, instead of trying to house a 3/4" socket in the manner of the 7/16", I got a short piece of 3/4" thin wall conduit from my scrap pile which compared to the size of the nut and first hammered flats on a vise anvil.  The flats were obviously distorted being rounded and different sizes, so I clamped a short piece of 3/8"  by 1/2" flat stock in the vise and used it as an anvil inside the tube to hammer, enlarging and evening the flats until a 3/4" nut would fit inside.  Instead of making the whole shaft of 3/4" conduit, a piece of 1/2" conduit was fitted.  To fill the gap and center the socket head, a short length of 3/4" conduit was cut and sawn lengthwise twice to make reduced section to squeeze into place.  All three pieces were filed and ground to remove all burrs and ease fitting then all were cleaned of oils and glued with 5 minute epoxy.   At the other end, a nut was selected that almost fit in the 1/2" conduit and the corners were ground off to allow a forced fit.  Again filing and cleaning were done before epoxying.  A short threaded rod in the nut allows a drill to drive the socket.  If a socket driver were advisable, jamming hex nuts could permit a shallow socket to be used.  2008-05-01, 2012-02-25

Contact Mike Firth