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Archive for November, 2012


Dresser – Day 2

Busy and long day..mainly trying to align things so for later assembly it all fits perfectly. Okay, I’m over that now. Reality bites…

Started off with the back, which is a mirror of the front. Understand that you can assemble ANYTHING with a brad nailer, clamps are for show.

Dresser Back Nutball

You’ve heard the expression, waiting on paint to dry. I’m waiting on glue to set.

Dresser Back Glue


Since the back of the dresser is going to be flush I routed out the back to accommodate it.

Dresser Back Rout

Yep, that’s one of those little “mini routers”, not to be confused with a WiFi router…

Since this is pine, the router does the job nicely even if doing adjustments is a pain in the buttooski. And no, you don’t log into the router with with a web browser to adjust it. Sheesh.

After the back dried, I cut the end panels. Since it’s a farmstead style, Laura wanted a “slat” look to them. I used a pointy thingy (technical description) router bit to fake boards.

Dresser Ends

Sanded them before installing them back once in there, tougher to sand smooth…thinking ahead. Something I’m normally not good at.

Dresser Ends 2

I put in the side panels, grooves are easy to see and then added the trim.

For moral support, and to ask me 1500 questions about every step I do (“are you sure you glued that joint?”)…I have my bestest helper in the whole wide world:

Dresser Helper

They say that behind every successful man is motivational wife. Mere words can not begin to describe how successful I am because of “little miss motivational”. She brings out the best in me. God bless her.


Dresser – Day 1

After building the grand daughter a farmstead style bed in April, Laura decided that Keira needs a dresser to replace the old one in use now. Of course in farmstead styling as well…

It’s going to be painted so I decided to make it completely out of pine since it’s a very easy and economical wood to work with. Roughly the finished dresser will be about 62″ x 34″ x 18″. It will sport seven drawers and use self closing glides (not soft closing).

Rough grade pine comes in 96″ x 16″ “planks” and I needed eight of them to build the whole thing. I found some 3/16″ birch ply that’s normally used for vinyl flooring, but I’ll be using that for drawer bottoms..

IMG 3452

Start off by reading my “plan”, which consists mostly of winging it…

Dresser Confusion

I used some corner clamps to make sure the front frame stayed square as I was putting in the front piece work. It’s actually all tied together and quite sturdy..

Dresser Frame

The clamps made the job soooo much easier than what I had hoped. I didn’t have to resort to the old mantra:

  1. Measure with a micrometer
  2. Mark it with chalk
  3. Cut it with an axe

So a few hours later and presto, a front:

Dressor Front

With a novice wood worker as a support…Tomorrow will be the back and that has to match the front so all drawer glides will align and have something to mount to.


TrendNet – Repurposed

Some time ago when I built my iPatch, I’d picked up a clearance item at a local electronics shop. Mainly because I wanted the box it came in. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was a steel box and it wasn’t going to be easy to turn into an iPatch.

Thus is got dumped into my junk box and sat there for more than a year. Since I’ve been doing a lot of work with Arduino’s and LED’s (mostly 12V strings), I use my 10A bench supply to test run stuff. Which is fine because I can limit the current with the supply. However once tested, using the bench supply seems a little overkill.

Thus I decided I needed a simple 5/12V power supply just for powering stuff that I’ve fully tested. Out came the Trendnet 16 port ethernet switch.


I removed all the parts inside (no idea if it even worked). I then sourced some switching power supplies (5V 4A), (12V 2A), some LED panel meters and away the project went.

Cutting the steel I used a nibbler and I have to say I have a much stronger grip now than when I started. It’s TOUGH to nibble that steel…

IMG 3449

The large connector on the left in the photo is a four port USB backplane connector. I just drilled some holes in it to mount it and this is where the 5V comes from for the Arduino. And I can have four Arduino’s running at the same time.


I used a couple of 90 degree 2.54 headers on to a piece of perf board to connect the sockets from the connectors. Works fine.

For the 12VDC connectors, I used banana jacks.

IMG 3451

So when it was all said and done and powered up…I have a 1U rack unit with lots of plug in places for Arduino’s and a 12V supply for “external” items like LED’s (strip lighting). I didn’t wire the grounds together so they are completely separate supplies.

I was going to put in an AMMETER for the 12V supply and I had the panel meter ready to go in but I didn’t realize that it required a separate Vcc for the meter.

The two voltmeters run off the same supply as they are measuring, but the ammeter leaked out some smoke when I connected it up that way. Course, in electronics, that’s how you learn sometimes. So if you’re looking for a panel ammeter on eBay (or where ever), check to make sure that it can run off the same supply as it is measuring. Or your’s will leak smoke too….


Arduino Relay Board

I was working on my Arduino RFID door opener and got a relay board from eBay to toggle the door strike. It wasn’t working exactly as I wanted and found that the relay board was energizing on a LOW signal, not a HIGH signal like I wanted.

Why is the relay board trigger important? If the Arduino loses power it comes back online when power is restored and all the outputs are low. Imagine if you had a strike that triggered on low. Yep. Not a good sign.

There’s a lot of these boards out there and they all seem to be made the same way at present. Thankfully many other boards are being made with options to trigger either way. This schematic I found on eBay:

Relay 1 MS SM

The board I have is simply hardwired to trigged on a low. Circuit wise it’s the same as the schematic without the two additional jumper blocks J1 & J2.

So I hacked it… Here’s the board in it’s natural state:

IMG 3435

Couple resistors, optoisolator, LED, diode, NPN transistor, and a relay. Pretty standard fare for these boards.

The schematic is about the same as the one above, except the jumpers for triggers are not there. So I removed the LED to start with:

IMG 3436

This LED is wired in series with the optoisolator to indicate when the relay is energized. One pin was coming from the terminal block, the other from the opto itself. I’m going to route the terminal to PIN 1 of the opto through a 1K resistor.

In the schematic you can see the original 1K resistor going to pin 1. I have to remove that 1K so it can’t provide power to the opto pin 1. The left hole is the Vcc, the right hole goes to pin 1 of the opto. So out it comes.

IMG 3437

I took a standard 1/4W 1K resistor and bent it to fit the holes I wanted it in. So now my terminal strip is connected to pin 1 of the opto via a 1K resistor:

IMG 3439

The hole at the top is Vcc and won’t be used. The empty bottom hole is where one lead of the LED will go. The other lead of the LED will connect to the Emitter of the NPN transistor (GND):

IMG 3440

And that was it. The relay board now energizes on a HIGH input, the LED shows the state of the opto (and hopefully the relay)…

IMG 3441

If this board had used SMT parts, this would have been harder to do so there’s a lot to be happy about sometimes with discrete components.


Scotty we need more POWER!

In the studio I have one of these:

IMG 3425

A superb controller that I’ve used for all manner of things. From controlling my DAW to running my iPatch of effects. And it works perfect. But since I also write the iFCB software, it spends a considerable amount of time in the office where I can test out various functions with it as I write the software.

I’ve been scanning eBay trying to score a second one but haven’t been able to find a good deal on one yet. So I need something to use in the studio as a stop gap measure.

Hello Arduino

I picked up a MIDI board for an Arduino some time ago from Rugged Circuits and found two things. There’s scant documentation for their board except in the HTML class files for the MIDI library and they provide zero support for this nice little board they sell.

Fortunately the board is of better quality than the support I needed (wanted to know how certain settings affected it). Plus it works fine with the MIDI library so I worked it out the hard way. Trial and lots of error.

I figured that I could easily emulate an FCB1010 pedal on a limited basis with the Arduino and the MIDI shield. Turns out I was right but things started off pretty rocky. I use a knock off Arduino board which doesn’t have the newer serial connection but a Prolific USB to Serial chip. Sending a sketch to that board is a lot of hit and miss. Mostly miss. I actually have to unplug and plug it back in rather than reset it to send a second sketch to it. Any way I thought I’d use it and save my authentic Arduino’s for my other projects.

I wrote the sketch, sent it, tested it with a MIDI interface to make sure it was right, took it into the studio, used a AC to USB power adapter, plugged it in and tested it.

Nothing. All the LED’s on the Arduino were on, but no soap. It wasn’t sending out anything. Back to the computer, I checked the values, they were right. Back to the studio, checked the MIDI cables, they were right. And back and forth and back and forth. Something niggled in the back of my mind and just for the heck of it I plugged the Arduino in the studio computer via a USB HOST cable. Worked. Ah ha…

So this is what these little AC to USB adapters look like:

IMG 3417

And after you rip one apart:

IMG 3418

Not much to them really…I flipped the board over to see what AC protection they used and got a chuckle out of the R1 er…ah I mean fuse (bottom right corner of the PCB):

IMG 3422

It looks hand soldered to me, and a bad solder job at that. I just tossed it in the garbage, not worth my time to fix it.

So my FCB10 (it’s only got 10 patches programmed in it at the moment) looks like this:

IMG 3424

Certainly not fancy but functional just needs to be put in a case.

A Case For Arduino

Speaking of cases, there’s a decided lack of cases, to put your Arduino projects in. There’s one company making a case that will hold an Arduino and ethernet shield. But no place for an LCD, keypad, and so on. Someone really needs to start to make boxes and AFFORDABLE ones at that!

As it stands now, a lot of the better quality larger boxes cost more than the Arduino board does. Somehow, that seems wrong to me. I have some slightly larger boxes on order from eBay so we’ll see how those work out when I get them. Locally a small ABS box is $20. I got some off eBay for half of that but hard to tell the quality of them…

I was going to use guitar stomp boxes but they’re too small. Drat. I got lots of them…



The kids never cease to amaze me by coming with some of the oddest but coolest gifts for me. They constantly amaze me with the innovation they have in gift selection…

However, I wasn’t prepared for this one…nor could I have been… I’m an avid golfer and try to get out to play, weather permitting, at least a couple of times a week. I also have practice classes at Northview Golf & Country Club Golf Course (about 2 minutes from the house here).

I tend to wear a variety of clothes, but typically khaki pants and a bright orange polo shirt. So when I got home Andrew & Rosie were waiting and I got a belated birthday present.

IMG 3274

Not only does mini-me look like me, and there’s a reason why that is, but it’s the same pants, shirt and yep…same colour golf bag. So why does it look like me? Because the bobble head is actually a 3D sculpture that was done from a photo of me. Then hand painted to match. The web site they ordered it from:

3D Clones

Not cheap by any stretch but cool? Oh yea…dam skippy it is…

IMG 3277


Arduino Economical WiFi

One of the nicest things about the Arduino is how easy it is to get on a network. By simply adding an Ethernet Shield (my advice is use the Wiznet 5100 based ones), running a simple sketch you can have an IP either static or DHCP and a DNS lookup function if you need a client in a few minutes.

Having said that, one of the more expensive options is adding typical home internet WiFi to an Arduino. You generally need to add a WiFi shield, and then add a WiFi module (like XBee) or something. The gang at Arduino HQ have come out with an Arduino and WiFi combination board at 69 Euros. At this point you can’t use the words “Economical” and “WiFi” in the same sentence.

Which is of course why all those little RF transmitters for a few bucks on eBay are so popular. And where something like that would suffice they are the obvious choice.

I’ve been hacking routers by putting DD-WRT software on them and setting them up as “bridges” so my various Arduinos can access the network/internet and in turn allow me to access them. So I’m always on the look out for old wireless routers.

As I was scanning eBay a couple of weeks back, I came across a “Wireless Pocket Router” that promised client, access point and an RT mode. And more. Well, except for the Julian French fries, it doesn’t do those. All for the cost of less than $20. Add in the ethernet shield and I figured it was worth a $30 gamble to see if I could get compact wireless…

IMG 3416

If you look to the right side of the box you see it’s billed as a 7 in 1 device. Which is sort of snake oil because it’s actually just a 3 in 1 device. As is indicated by the mode switch on the side.

IMG 3404

  1. RT – plug it into a DSL modem, and you have a wireless access point to connect to.
  2. Client – plug it into a computer and it will connect to your wireless router (kind of a bridge).
  3. AP – connect it to a wired network and you have a wireless access point into the network.
  4. Repeater – Radio Relay.
  5. WIFI – Amplifies existing wireless signal.
  6. Bridge – connects to wireless network to bridge two LANs.
  7. WIFI Exchange – connects to wireless network, allows 3+ wired LAN’s to be connected.

It’s worth noting that the last four items are all listed under the AP (access point) setting. Thus, it’s a 3 in 1.

Since this device is from Asia, I expected perhaps a single page of documentation, about the size of a pocketbook. In Engrish. To my utter shock and amazement, I got a 16″ x 16″ fold out, double sided sheet of setup instructions written in concise English. Wow!

IMG 3405

Of course the setup instructions as far as the computer goes contained diddly squat about a Mac, and for the Windows setup they only cover Windows 2000 and Windows XP. And while the printed instructions will get you through the setup if you’re reasonably network savvy, the built in web server in the device was all Engrish and had me in stitches just reading it.

IMG 3406

Notice the “Choosing from categories on the left” statement. Fail.

Once the settings are made, they want you to reboot the device:

IMG 3408

I think that should say, Restarting, please wait. LOL

The device comes with a retractable ethernet cable. Which is pretty slick for a obviously portable device. So to save you some time, I’ll tell you right now that if you have a Mac, you may find that the ethernet connection won’t stick. My was cycling about once a second. It would connect, drop, connect, drop. I grabbed a standard ethernet cable, rock solid.

IMG 3409

This is how it showed up on my Mac laptop that I was using to test it with. This happens to be set in “Client” or what I would call bridge mode. My main network is 192.168.1.xx but not when you use one of these wireless wonders. In a normal bridge setup, it’s transparent to the network and your computer picks up (if you’re using DHCP) the IP from your main wireless connection. I suspect the way this one works, if you’re doing something like remote login’s it won’t function between the networks (haven’t tried it but…).

In use with the Arduino, I used it as DHCP and did a DNS lookup of my server.

IMG 3414

One other little gotcha that I didn’t actually think about and that’s how to power the thing. Turns out it ships with a USB to mini-USB connector. So it runs off the 5VDC coming out of your computers USB port. USB ports are rated at 500ma, although most of them tend to get pretty fussy about anything that draw 300ma or more. So I don’t know just how much power said wee beastie slurps up. So there’s a consideration too.

All in all, for Arduino use where the Arduino has to get out but you don’t have to get in, it will work. I did notice that you can set the WAN IP and LAN IP manually. The “router” in the device itself would still want to do NAT, so I don’t know that it would work for accessing the device from the WAN side. More checking would have to be done…


Guitars – mail order brides..

When you want to buy a new guitar, the majority of us might do a little research to see if said model of guitar would be to our liking. We might catch a few sound clips from the manufacturers web site, scan YouTube for some clips and maybe at some point even read a few forums for a “review”.

Thusly armed with questionable information, we head off to the local store and proceed to pick nearly every guitar off the wall that fits our ideal and play it. Which is usually the point were reality and disillusionment come to the party. I’m sitting with some fabulous looking guitar that was, unfortunately, built on a Minion Monday. The thing is a mess of issues from unlevelled frets, misadjusted truss rod, poor string height and on goes the list. In its present state the kindest thing that you could do is buy it, bring it home, hang it over the mantle and affix it to the wall with a 10″ spike.

I realize that it takes time and a modicum of know how to setup a guitar. I also know that companies want to sell a guitar. So here’s a little secret for them..”you’d sell more if people could actually play them right out of the box”. There are store staff that, thankfully, catch most of them and set them up in advance. To those unrecognized store hero’s, you have my sincere THANKS!

Other stores will ignore the obvious, let the guitar sell itself or discount it so someone will feel sorry for it and buy it to fix themselves. When you buy it they “send it out” (maybe) and you’ll get it back in a few days hopefully properly adjusted. To those stores..”RAAZZZZberries”…

But…what about ALL those guitars from companies that the local stores DON’T carry? Hallmark, Eastwood, Aria, and on the list goes. You can’t go anywhere and try one unless you know someone who owns one. Even in that event, would the guitar you get be as good/bad as that?

Welcome to the guitar world of mail order brides.

I promised myself a long time ago that if I couldn’t play a guitar I’d never plunk down the money and buy one. Which sounds pretty sensible. Except I got tired looking at the Fenders and Les Pauls from the locals and wanted someone else’s take on it. So I’ve strayed from the rule three times and ordered mail order direct. The models I went after clearly resembled the Mosrite series. Which if you take a second and look at the body shape you’ll see it’s little more than a Strat body flipped upside down. Clever.

So my Mosrite wannabe’s are from different companies. They vary in price from $600 to $1000. They are as different in sound, playability, construction, as day is different from night. AND…NONE of them have been perfect. By that I mean there are issues with each one.

Guitar A – has a high E string but for whatever reason it’s the deadest sounding string I ever heard. More like a jazz string it’s so mellow. Whereas the G string (on the guitar not the girl) jumps right out of the speaker at you. I spent a LOT of time trying to coax better sound out of it and I finally ended up with Lollar pickups and I think that’s about the best it’s every going to be. Obviously the tone wood is a midrange one…

Guitar B – what a mess. Poor rout on the body for the pick guard, so bad in fact they drilled multiple holes just trying to fit the thing. Jammed the pick guard into the pickups so they were unadjustable. Two of the strings fretted out which indicated the frets needed levelling. The nut was cut too low on one string. Well, you get the idea. A mess. But sounded GOOD. Luckily I had a store order it direct for me so they sent it out and had the nut and neck fixed. I did the rest myself… The guitar is a fabulous little player now, but it took a lot of work to get it there.

Guitar C – again, fabulous sound. Easy to play. The hopped up minion that mounted the tremolo setup should be shot:

IMG 3396

That whammy post should NOT be touching that string. When you use the whammy you feel it grinding on the string. I checked the alignment of the tremolo plate, it’s out. Almost 1/8″ skew. Fortunately it doesn’t seem to affect the sound. So you know what? I am simply not going to use the whammy bar on it. I love the way it sounds and I don’t want that to change…

So a good question would be, what do you do when you get one of these? If you want to keep it, you fix it. If you can’t afford to fix it, you sell it. Hoping the next guy doesn’t notice.

What no WARRANTY? Fortunately most do. Some will even go so far as to allow you to return it. You pay the shipping and you won’t get their rates. Most of them will try to work with you, to a point. After that “point” they don’t want to see or hear from you again. Course if you get rich and famous I’d wager they’d fall all over themselves to be your friend. Surprise huh.

So there’s the rub. If you’re confident you can fix all the little issues that almost all of them come with, you can find some real treasures. But if you’re not that kind of person, stick to playing what’s hanging on the wall of the local store. And reminding yourself about all the headaches you just avoided…:-)