Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How to Install a new drop-in cooktop -or- How to make your wife cry before Thanksgiving

I found a great deal on Craigslist for a new-in-box Frigidaire ceramic top Cooktop.  I got this for only $300! Wow!  And I was able to pick it up on our anniversary!
Terrible picture of Shiny new Cooktop

I got home and pulled out our old cooktop.  It was one of the ones with the spiral elements and icky drip pans that attract spills faster than a sugar-spiked toddler.  Removing the old one was pretty easy.  It was only held in by the electrical connection and a bead of silicone caulk around the mounting flange.  The silicone cut pretty easily with a paring knife.

The electrical connection wasn't bad.  Ty suggested that I turn off the circuit breaker.  I suggested that if we left it on she could use the life insurance to have the cooktop professionally installed.  She LOL'd.  I turned off the breaker.  There were 4 wires in the box; two hot, a neutral, and ground.  All were secured with giant wire nuts.  I unscrewed them and baggied the wire-nuts for later use.  The metal armored cable that protected the wiring was held on by a clamp that opened with one screw.  Easy-Peasy.

Out came the old cooktop and...

I hit a snag.  It didn't fit.  Ty was not pleased.  I think she might have briefly reconsidered the circuit breaker idea.  Oops.

So, what to do?  Make the hole bigger of course!
Hole in Corian Countertop.
Our countertops are a plastic composite, probably Corian.  As it turns out these can be cut with standard power tools.  Ty was not ecstatic about the idea of chopping a hole in our countertops on the day before the day before Thanksgiving. 

I tried a few different ways to cut it with varying success.

Ryobi Cordless Drill:  Easily drilled a 1/2" starter hole for the spiral cutter.

10 year old Homier trim router and Spiral cutting bit: Cuts like butter.  (Until the router ate the brushes in the motor and self destructed.)  This is the tool I'd recommend if you have a choice.

10 year old Black and Decker Jigsaw: Cut 70% of the hole with this.  The corners of the cooktop were reinforced with a double thickness of Corian.  This was incredibly difficult to cut through.  Each corner took at least 10 minutes to cut.  This is probably the last job this tool will ever do as it was seriously limping by the end.  I think the brushes probably went on it too.

Ryobi Cordless Reciprocating saw:  This cut through the back edge where the jigsaw couldn't fit.  It cut at about the same speed as the jigsaw, but it shut down after about a foot of cutting.  I switched to the other battery to finish the job.  I think the batteries have an internal temperature monitoring circuit, because it was fine after I let it cool down for a while.

Idea: Ryobi (or some intrepid adventurer like me) should make a plug-in module that lets you use the tools as wall-powered.  It'd be great for jobs like this when power is literally inches away and save wear on the (ridiculously expensive) batteries.

Note: You should round the corners of the Corian when you cut them.  Sharp corners concentrate stress and can cause cracking.  Cracking is bad.  The manufacturers website had this plastered all over the instructions, so I assume it's important.

One-and-a-half broken tools later and the new hole was cut.  The new cooktop dropped right in.  It came with two brackets that mount underneath to keep it in place.  This seemed odd, as it seemed unlikely that it could fall "up" out of the counter.  I installed them anyway.

The electrical connections were well documented in the manual.  Easy as pie.  I double checked the circuit breaker just in case Ty had reconsidered her earlier position.

Not easy was cleaning up the explosion of plastic dust swarf everywhere.  This is not a tidy job, by any means.

Here it is.  It's straight, just the angle of the picture makes it look uneven. 
Project Done!
I hope I can find the matching over-the-stove microwave for her for Christmas. :D

Note: I'm not sponsored by any of the companies I mention.  I mention the brand names here because a lot of tools are junk, and I see value in knowing what actually works. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

FIXED: Long pause when browsing "some" folders on a windows share

An interesting problem crossed my desk today.  A customer moved their file shares from a Windows 2003 server to a Windows 2008 server.  They went around and updated all of the user's share shortcuts and it was working okay.

... But....  (But always makes things more interesting.) 

When they navigated to some directories on the share there was a noticeable pause before the contents were visible. 
  • The problem went away if they were added to the Admin's group.  
  • The more files or folders in the directory, the longer the delay.
  • Network captures showed no issues with connectivity or name resolution.

And most interestingly, the problem did not exist on the Windows 2003 server in the same subnet as the new file server.




The problem was that ABE, Access Based Enumeration, was enabled on the new server but not the old one.  ABE is this cool-but-noone-knew-about-it feature of Windows 2003 that would not let a client see a file or folder on a share unless they had access to it.  The feature is awesome, but it  means that the file server has to iterate through the permissions of every file and folder before returning the list of objects back to a client PC.  For small folders, this was no issue.  For this particular client's really-big-folders with painfully nested permissions it can cause a few seconds delay when browsing. 

They aren't using the features of ABE, so clearing the checkbox fixed it. 


Note:  This issue was just a couple of seconds pause when browsing an open share.  If you're experiencing a 15 or 30 second pause when initially connecting to a share then that's different.  15 or 30 second pauses are almost exclusively Name Resolution issues.  Good Luck!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The one where I re-invent something that's already patented.

For the last few weeks I've been working on a secret-squirrel 3-D printing project.  I thought I'd discovered an inexpensive way for folks to 3-D print metals at home.

It works.

It's cheap.

And today I discovered that someone else has already patented it.

I'm deflated.  Crushed.  Empty.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Weekend Update, and how to disassemble an HP DM3 Laptop

It was a reasonably productive weekend, but I _really_ needed an extra day.

The list of half-finished projects got bigger:
  • The dryer part came in, but I didn't get a chance to install it.
  • Ty and I started sanding our new table in preparation for painting it, but didn't finish.
  • I manufactured a quart of copper acetate solution via electrolysis.  This was painfully slow, and I definitely need a new power supply for this sort of thing.  I didn't get a chance to recrystallize it, yet.
  • I bought some MDF to make CNC Christmas trees with Little B, but we ran out of time.
  • On the secret-squirrel 3d-printing with Metal project I successfully built the extruder over the weekend, but was unable to test it.
  • I installed Windows 8.1. for my nephew's girlfriend.  This replaced Ubuntu, but she couldn't use it under Linux because no-one had configured the wireless NIC driver.
  • Wife's HP laptop died.  A bit on that in a second.
  • The Boy and I re-imaged his laptop.  It was a festering pustule of Virii and Malware.
  • I rocked at Black Ops.
I was able to load all the Last Apprentice books on the Boy's nook, so that's one thing successful.

Wife's Laptop is an HP DM3.  I diagnosed the failure as a bad power button.  Disassembling this laptop is non-intuitive.
  • Remove the Battery with the sliding lever on the bottom of the laptop.
  • Under the battery is an orange sliding lever that releases the hard drive access door.
  • Under the hard drive access door is an orange sliding lever that releases the memory access door.
  • Remove three screws from behind the battery to release the keyboard.  
    • Note: Keep track of which screws go where.  This laptop has 5 different types of screws and they are not interchangeable.
  • Gingerly pry the keyboard up and out without tarfing the ribbon cable or socket.
  • Close the laptop and remove the two screws next to the screen hinges, one screw under the DIMM cover, and two silver/rubber feet screws.
  • Open the laptop and remove the one screw holding down the under-the keyboard plate.
  • Disconnect the ribbon cables for the Touchpad and power button.
  • Remove the under-keyboard plate
  • Split the top half of the laptop including the bezel around the keyboard with a case cracker, plastic wedge, or screwdriver.
  • Now the Power switch assembly will pop off the back.
  • The Power switch PCB is held in the assembly by a single screw.
I had intended on replacing the little SMT switch on the PCB, but I managed to rip the end off of the ribbon cable.  Since I failed utterly (with no small amount of expletives) I ordered the PCB and Ribbon Cable assembly from eBay.

Fun stuff!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ordering Dryer and Plastic Injection Molding Machine Parts

This week has been pretty quiet so far. 

I worked some more in MeshCam and designed my next CNC part.  It's a wooden pattern for a brass casting of a surprise Christmas gift for my brother.  I'd really like to tell you about it, but he might read this!  :D

In other news, my Dryer broke on Sunday.  The heating coils broke.  I have affected a temporary repair by twisting the broken leads back together.  Ty says that the dryer works better than it has in years.  I lol'd.  The temporary repair will probably last for years.  It lasted about 6 years in my Mom's dryer with no ill effects, but I'm going to fix this right for my sweetheart.

(Yes, you in the back waving your hand?)  "Why are you fixing it if the temporary repair could last years?"  A couple of reasons, actually.  First, it seems like having the twisted coils all bunched together will create a hot spot that marginally increases the risk of fire.  Second, it's for my sweetheart.  I can assure you that the fact that I'll have several hundred feet of used-but-still-serviceable heating element wire left over after the repair has absolutely nothing to do with it, and that I have no intentions whatsoever of making a hot wire foam cutter out of said extra parts.  :D

I found the complete heating element for $90 at RepairClinic
GE Dryer Heating Element (Image Stolen from RepairClinic)

But then I found a kit that just replaces the heating coil for half the cost!
GE Dryer Heating Element Restring Kit (Image Stolen from RepairClinic)

I'll be making a video of installing the restring kit this weekend.

I also got a couple of thermocouples and cartridge heaters.  Those are tentatively planned for a Plastic Injection Molding Machine like I read about in "Secrets of Building a Plastic Injection Molding Machine"* , but they might end up in a plastic bottle-to-filament recycler or in some other as-yet-uninvented project.

* Full disclosure, that's an amazon affiliate book link.  I own that book and a bunch of other Gingery books too.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Quickie: Getting the path to a batch file from inside itself.

To get the path to a batch file from inside itself you can use the environment variable %~dp0

This is really handy if you want to use non-relative paths inside it.  Why would you ever use that?

I have an external hard drive that I keep my bitcoin wallet on.  I have a batch file on the drive that tells it to use the data files on the external hard drive.  Here's the code.

@echo off
REM I Run the local bitcoin executable and load the data REM from the data subdirectory.
%~dp0bitcoin-qt.exe -datadir=%~dp0data
And that's that.

P.s. Before I get mugged for my bitcoin wallet, you should know that I keep less than one coin in it.  I'm not worth it.  Really!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The lost foam-board Pyramids of Ancient Egypt

On Sunday Mr. B and I made a Pyramid!

It's constructed of 4 equilateral foam board triangles glued to a foam board base and painted with a rattlecan "sand" color texture paint.  Hot seen in this picture is that there is another duct-tape hinged board for the background underneath this one.  That board is going to get Hieroglyphics, a desert background, or a cutaway view of a pyramid painted on it. 

I helped lay out the triangles and Big B did all the cutting and gluing.  Great job Mr. B!

I also told Mr. B the dark truth about Exacto knives.
The Dark Truth about Exacto Knives

My second CNC thing (from Thingiverse!)

My son Big B my son is studying Egyptian history in Social Studies.  Sunday we made an Ankh on the CNC mill. 
A CNC-Cut Foam Ankh

To make this part, I downloaded this thing from Thingiverse.
Life.stl on Thingiverse

Then I loaded it up in MeshCam to create the GCode.

I have a big piece of foam board that I was using for DWC Aquaponics.  I cut out a chunk and put it in the mill.  The part was done _an hour_ later.  In hindsight, I set the mill to cut parallel passes with a tiny stepover amount.

I'll post the .nc files shortly.

EDIT: Here is the .nc file for a full depth slow Pencil cut around the outside of the part.  This is designed for foam.  It will likely break something if you try it in anything more substantial than foam.

But, it machines the part in minutes.  :D Fastest


Friday, November 8, 2013

My first successful CNC thingy!

After I got the mill fixed, I was dying to make a part.  The Spectralight software includes a couple of default programs, so I grabbed one of those. 

I ran into a couple of problems.

First, the mill was trying to do tiny moves.  I figured out last week that it was set to millimeters instead of inches.  That was an easy fix, by changing an option in the setup program.

Second, when I sent a tool change command (M06) the Mill moved the head up until it hit the hard stop on the Z axis.  Bad times.  I had properly set the Zero, so that was unexpected.  What I figured out was that I needed to set a home position for the mill.  This was another option buried off in the setup screen.  Once the Home position is set then the mill "knows" where to stop before hitting the hard stop.

With that done, I ...

(Cue dramatic music!)

Cut ...

(Music rising to a huge Crescendo!)

My First CNC Part!

Ok, so it's not Michelangelo's David, but it is my first CNC Part.  I am ecstatic!

Fixed the Mill

Last week I was ecstatic to set up my shiny new (old) Spectralight CNC mill.  Unfortunately the Y-Axis had a backlash problem.  About an inch of backlash.  I had to go out of town and just got back in the shop today.

That doesn't look right... 
The Leadscrew is supposed to be connected to the stepper.

I had guestimated the problem to be that the Cap screw that held the leadscrew to the motor coupler had come off.  That was incorrect.  The Spectralight mill differs from the stock Sherline 5400 mill.  Instead of having a hard mount for the steppers to the lead screw it uses a coupling that permits small amounts of misalignment.

The motor coupler.. (Half of it.)
The fix was pretty easy.  I had to clean the end of the leadscrew (it was oily), move the rubber sleeve out of the way, put the thrust bearing/washer/and coupler back on, take out as much play as possible, and tighten up the cap screw on the coupler.  Easy peasy.

Fixed the lathe

Several quick blog posts today.  I've been busy.

I have a Homier 7x12 Mini-Lathe  It's been out of commission since last year when I broke the belt while machining a base for a Van de Graaf generator.

The old belt.  Not so great.

I ordered a replacement from along with a new chuck key and a set of 3/8" boring bars.

I disassembled it with help from the instructions posted over at  It wasn't too bad.  The gear cover, two of the change gears, and the back-gear assembly had to come off.  Roughly 10 screws total.

When I got it apart I found that the drive pulley was pretty chewed up.  It looks like the old belt wasn't aligned properly from the factory so it slowly self-destructed while depositing melted nylon into the pulley.
Lathe pulley full of melted nylon belt goo

I scraped all of the yuck out that I could and slipped the new belt on.  I also ended up pulling off the motor cover and control panel so I could adjust the motor now.  I was able to straighten it out so that the belt tracks properly now.  This belt should last a lot longer than the old one.

I also cleaned up the lathe a lot.  It developed some surface rust and a coating of garage muck at our old house, and now it's at least ok.  Not great, but okay.

Anyway, the lathe is fixed now.  One step closer to making something awesome!

(Sneak Peak: I found this Gingery book on how to make a injection molding machine..  That sounds pretty nifty!)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Quiet week, studying, milling, working on AD

This week has been fairly quiet.  I'm spending a lot of time studying CNC and getting all the data about metal casting back into my head.

I made some progress around the Spectralight 0200 Milling Machine.  I bought an USB Floppy Drive from Microcenter so I could get programs out to the mill.  That was kind of surreal.  Of the 4 floppies that came with the mill, 2 were corrupt.  I was able to make a backup image of the 2 disks that contain the 1.0 version of the Windows software.  That's awesome!  Now I can rebuild it if I tarf the PC connected to the controller.  The bad news is that it's 16-bit software.  It won't work under Windows 8.  I may have to go all the way back to XP to get it running on a *modern OS.  Failing that I'll cook up a VM for it.

At work we're doing a lot of structural work on Active Directory.  Today I installed the Microsoft Active Directory Topology Diagrammer.  This free tool, combined with Visio 2003 Pro or later, creates Visio Diagrams of your domain and site topology.  Very handy stuff for documentation.  Tomorrow we're going to talk about enabling Inter-site change notification for faster AD replication and also redesign the way the bridgehead servers are laid out.  Fun stuff.

Oh yeah, and I think I found the holy grail of 3-d printing, a consumer-friendly way to print metal parts.  So there's that. If you want a cheap option on a million dollar paradigm changing idea then shoot me an email.


Monday, November 4, 2013

MOOC Dropout: Stanford's Finance of Retirement and Pensions

I just withdrew from the Stanford Retirement and Pensions MOOC.  I really didn't want to, but I wasn't getting a reasonable benefit for the effort I was expending.  It's not the instructors fault.   I guess I traditional lectures and a chalkboard work better for me.

Lessons Learned:
1. Six 10 minute videos convey less information than one continuous lecture of half the length.
2. Too many graphics are distracting, not helpful.  I get it.  You have a green screen.  Now.stop.
3. Please post all of the videos at once, not as drips.

Making PCBs (part three of ???)

Here are a few more videos of me learning how to make PCBs with Fritzing.  I was finally successful in making and printing the PCB!

Schematic to PCB in Fritzing

A few corrections:
1. It is possible to make this without using a jumper.  Yeah!
2. The default traces and Vias in Fritzing are small.  I made them bigger (and easier to solder/drill) by selecting the vias and wires one-at-a-time and changing the size.
3. You are probably smarter than the Autorouter.  You can convert the ratsnest lines to traces by right-clicking the lines and selecting "Convert ratsnest line to wire".  That's handy.

I printed the completed circuit on Fuji InkJet Photo Paper.   I ironed the print onto the PCB.  I did the entire PCB for 30 seconds and then an additional 15 seconds on the edges.  The paper appears to have a thin layer of plastic on the non-printing side and it puffed up like a fresh tortilla.  I soaked it in warm water for 30 minutes.  The plastic layer appears to be impermeable to water.  The part of the paper that soaked with water worked perfectly!  Most of the paper was still bone dry though.  Damnit.  It was "good enough". So I colored in the faded traces with a sharpie.

Then, in giddy excitement, I went in the garage to etch the board.

And I discovered that I did NOT have copper sulfate.  (Expletive)(Expletive)(Expletive)(Expletive)(Expletive)(Expletive)(Expletive)

So. Very. Close.

I'll be making Copper Sulfate in a post very soon.  Yes, I know I can buy it from the hardware store.  No, I will not.  This has become a Quest now, and just buying it would be cheating. :D


Birthday Project: Mailbox & Post

I got a text from our tenants on Friday night.  A guy was distracted driving and drove through our mailbox.


I went to the Home Depot to get a new mailbox and post.  The Mailbox was a semi-reasonable $17.  A wooden post was almost $40!  Ouch!.  They had some of the ugly metal posts for cheaper, but I didn't really like them.

So I made my own!

Materials: *
(1) Mailbox
(1) 4"x4"x8' Pressure treated Pine Post
(1) 1"x8"x2' Pine board
(4) #12 x 3" Countersunk wood screws
(4) #12 x 1" Pan Head wood screws
(1) Gorilla Glue
(1) High strength Concrete

* ' are feet " are inches.  You can remember this semi-easily by remembering there are more inches (doublequote) than feet (singlequote).

Credit:This chap made this helpful graphic for the screw types.  Thanks!

Cut List:
Cut the 4x4 to 5'10".  Save both pieces.  The long piece is the post.  The short piece is the cross bar.
Rip the 1x8x1 to 6 1/8" wide and 16" long.  Before you cut this, measure the recess on the bottom of the mailbox to make sure your dimensions match mine.  This piece should fit inside that recess.

I joined the Post (the vertical part) and Cross Bar with a half-lap joint and Gorilla Glue.  To make this joint, Mark a line 18" back from one end of the crossbar. Place a piece of 4x4 adjacent to this line, and mark another line on the other side.  These define the ends or "shoulders" of your joint.
To define the depth of the joint, find the center of the width of the 4x4 and mark the depth line.
I used a circular saw for the shoulder cuts and a 1" chisel to knock out the middle.  Cut another half-lap joint 11" from the top end of the post.  The two should fit together snugly, but not so tight that you need to beat them together with a hammer.

Fancy Bits:
You can make the post look better by adding some decorative touches.  One way to do this is to dog ear the post.  To do this, mark a line 1" back from the end of each end of the cross bar and the top of the post.  Set the Circular saw to 45°.  Now cut this angle following the lines you marked.

Alternatively you can make "Pointed" posts using the same procedure, just make the marks and cuts 2" back from each end.

The decorative work has some practical benefit as well.  This reduces the amount of water that can soak into the top of the post and rot it out.

I used Gorilla glue for this joint and two 3" screws to hold it together while the glue sets.  If you clamp it until the glue driest the screws aren't required.  That makes it look a little cleaner.  Gorilla glue expands as it dries, so be ready to clean up what squeezes out.  It's easy to clean up when it's soft, but a pain when it hardens.

Now center the  1x6 1/8"x16" mailbox mounting board on the cross bar approximately 1" from the post.  Drill pilot holes and attach it to the cross bar with two 3" screws.

I waited until the post was set to mount the mailbox so it didn't get banged around in the back of the van

Using Post hole diggers, dig  an 18-24" deep hole where the mailbox will be installed.  Drop in the post, add concrete, pack it in, and add water.  leave an inch or two of space below the ground so you can add dirt back to hide the concrete.  Remember to level your post!  I used a free level app for my smartphone since I neglected to bring one.

The USPS made this picture that shows how far back to mount the mailbox.  They also say to check with your local postmaster before you install the mailbox too.  My old box was too close to the road, and probably part of the reason it got knocked down.

To install the mailbox, drill pilot holes and screw in the 4 1" screws through the mounting holes in the bottom flange of the mailbox.

Here is the notebook page for this project.

Here is the finished mailbox and post.

I had the screws, glue, and pine board on hand, so DIYing this saved me about $30.

Birthday Presents!

Tyanne got me a new vice!

(Stock photo, Mine is still in the box.)

I'll be installing it on Thursday night.  woo-hoo!  This replaces my 10 year old Pony vice from Sears.  I broke it bending the steel to make the mower hitch.  Hopefully this one will outlast the workbench it's mounted to. 

Tip:  When you mount a vice, put it directly over the leg of your workbench.  It makes a huge difference in the amount of deliverable force when you have to beat something.  When you mount the vice in the middle of a bench, the whole bench flexes to absorb impacts.  When it is right over the leg you transmit the force directly into the concrete below.  You can really feel the difference this makes.

My Isabella got me a new measuring tape for my toolbox too.  I got to use it this weekend.  That's a subject for my next post.

Birthday! - Setting up the CNC Mill

Yesterday was my birthday.  My present to myself was a Spectralight 0200 CNC Mill from eBay and an small metal casting foundry set.  I picked up the mill last week and installed it Sunday night.

The Mill is based on a Sherline 5400.  The one I bought has a 3/8's inch Jacob's chuck and a small milling vice.  What's awesome about this one is that it didn't require any fritzing.  It had a PC with the control software installed, the software, the interface card, the control box and the mill.  It was literally plug and play.  I was _really_ excited to get it in and set up.

The good news:  It worked!

I didn't have any end mills, so I bought a HSS 1/8" Spiral cutting wood bit.  I chucked it up.  (Crap, it didn't include a chuck key.) and mounted a piece of pink foam in the vice.  (Crap, I don't know how a machinist vice works.).  Then I turned the spindle on (Wait, it isn't working.  Here, let me screw that connector a little tighter) and jogged around in the foam to make a cut!  (Success!)

The bad news:  [It worked] ... for about 15 minutes.
The Y axis stopped moving.  I can see the Y axis stepper turning, but the slide doesn't move.  I pulled it apart and the leadscrew was pulling out of the thrust bearing that holds it in place.  I pulled the Sherline parts manual and it looks like there is a socket head cap screw in there that must have failed

Specifically, I think that my 67115 has come out of the leadscrew or my 67105 has busted.  Back at the mill there is a big rubber something that is wrapped around my 67105 coupler.  I don't know if it's just a safety don't-put-your-finger-in-this thing or if it is some sort of vibration dampener.  I didn't get another chance to work on it this weekend, but it's my first priority for next weekend.

I am giddily excited about this.  There are so many things I want to make now!

p.s. My son's first question was "Can I try?".  His second was "Can we make an AR with this?" :)