Thursday, May 26, 2016

Small Part Storage

This was a quick project done in the 'one day build' style of

The build itself was inspired by a video on that site that showed a simple solution to small part storage. ( That product was too expensive for me so I started looking for some cheaper options that served the same purpose. I settled on some relatively cost effective containers from Stanley and Mastercraft. They have many small containers and you can mix and match the sizes.

The cabinet was sized around efficient use of 1/2 inch and 3/8 inch plywood and the containers themselves. It's on wheels so I can move it around the shop easily and it's great being able to bring the parts to my bench when I need them. The clear container tops help too. It may seem tall and skinny but it's surprisingly stable. I don't think I'll have to worry about it falling over and even if it does, all the containers lock so nothing spills. I haven't bought all the containers yet but will purchase more as I need them.

The finish was just some left over outdoor stain from my fence.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator

About 12 years ago a friend of mine from university approached me about building an arcade cabinet. It seemed like a fun project so for about a year we periodically got together and pretended we knew what we were doing and in the end we had a very presentable Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME) cabinet for him to take home. At the time I had no interest in the electronics so he took it home to finish after we were done the woodworking.
Over the past few years the Raspberry Pi and the Maker culture has taken over and I begin to regret not having helped with the electronics. After a bit of research I realized there was a wealth of information on what to do and it looked pretty straight forward. I've started a tradition of making the kids a game each Christmas and although I was a few weeks late this seemed like a good project. (Let's just pretend I made this one for the kids.)
Almost every post I've found on how to make one of these things seems to include the line "I am not a woodworker so you'll have to excuse my construction methods." Luckily this is the one part I did understand at the start of the project. There are plenty of posts out there on the intricacies of creating a MAME controller so I'm not going to make this post be a step by step. Instead I'll detail the experience of going from idea to finished product.
I really had no idea where to start though I did know I wanted to do the following;
1) Try out wiring.
2) Not build the entire cabinet.
3) Try out a Raspberry Pi.
4) Keep things cheap.
As mentioned there are a lot of great resources out there for this kind of thing. was a great location for the software for the PI and had several good posts with the necessary steps.
I did spend a lot of timing trying to figure out the best place to buy the buttons, controller module etc. had some packages for the buttons but it included a wiring harness and that seemed like cheating. I quickly learned there are very few local electronics stores anymore so online seemed like my only option. I eventually came across which caters to the various Playdium's across the country and they had everything I needed. This was when I realized this was going to be a pretty simple project. The IPac2 is pretty much idiot proof.
The measurements for the case were a mix of online research and a cardboard template to figure out what I liked. The plan was for a two player game with joysticks and not too much clutter. I'm not much of a gamer so I didn't plan on downloading any 8 button arcade games or needing a trackball which was rather expensive. This gave me the general layout and a few random measurements for the height and I was ready to build. The case was finger jointed poplar and the top was baltic birch which is a high quality plywood. (I had a scrap piece lying around.)
The button install was very straightforward. I had to buy a pair of wire crimping pliers and I splurged on a better wire stripper. The automatic ones are way better than the manual pair I had. The Pi setup was relatively painless. The hardest part was trying to image the memory card from my Mac. Everything was locked down and it took a bit of time to figure out which security settings I had to turn off. The only issue I had on the inside was that I put in a full plugin and the PI DC converter was offset by 90 degrees so it didn't fit until I added a 90 degree adapter.
I put a few vent holes in the bottom though I don't expect the PI to get very hot. I also had to add an extra hole for the HDMI cord. I do plan on putting a proper HDMI port on the outside but haven't found one I like.

This whole project took about three weeks  of evenings from planning start to completion so it really doesn't take a lot of time to get something functional. So far I've managed to install Super Mario Brothers which was my favourite game as a kid. Now I don't have to share with my brothers.

The Book That Started Everything

There are three things that got me into woodworking. The first is that my Dad is a carpenter and I was around tools my entire life, the second was a simple finger jointed box that I used as a cash box when collecting money from my paper route and the third was a book called Box Making Basics that had this box on the front cover. I started woodworking in the late 90's in my third year of university as a hobby. Small boxes seemed like the perfect place to start since I didn't need a lot of material and they require all the basic skills you need to do fine woodworking.
I made a box just like this for my wife before we got married and now my daughter is old enough to have jewelry lying all over her bed room so it was time to make one for her as well. The construction consists of mitred sides on base that is glued on and the top is a solid panel with a lap jointed frame. This project took about a week of evenings and was made of Sapelle. The big lesson learned on this box was that I need to be more careful with how I store my velvet. It's gotten quite wrinkled and I"m not even sure how to get the wrinkles out. I don't know if I can iron it. The box still turned out great and was a big improvement over the one I did 15 years ago.