Thursday, September 27, 2012

World Maker Faire 2012

We're about to make the journey to World Maker Faire.  As usual time has rushed by and grand plans of things to bring with us have distilled down to trying to complete one thing to bring.  Fortunately this year's Faire will include the Nerdy Derby, giving us a clear objective to shoot for.

But what to build?  There are some intimidating projects out there for the derby that I can't hope to match.  We could do LEGO, but with this season's FLL team in full swing we have our fill of brick building and engineering.  The girls and their Girl Scout troops have been doing a lot of art projects with duct tape...  Hmmm...

I started with a piece of perfboard cut to the length and width of a block from a pinewood derby kit.  A few wraps with duct tape and added the axles.

Then it was a matter of cutting and rolling lengths of tape, stacking them, taping them down, and repeating.  The entire (except the board base) is duct tape.  We used some appropriate, non-standard duct tape patterns for the finishing touches.

Unfortunately the car had a run-in with my smallest daughter.  Superglue was required to rebuild one wheel.  With one wobbly wheel it will probably not put in the fastest time, but I think it has a certain style.

Friday, August 3, 2012

So, for some reason I am really excited about the Curiosity/Mars Lab landing on Monday morning.  Remains to be seen if I will be excited enough to wake up at 1:30 a.m.

In the mean time, I've started re-reading Heinlen's "Stranger in a Strange Land".   I really wanted to read Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles", but that does not seem to be available for Kindle.

I thought about doing a marathon viewing of "Mars Attacks" on Sunday night, but I don't know if I could watch it that many times.   "War of the Worlds" could be in the playlist (the original movie version, not the Tom Cruise remake).  I'm not a huge fan of "Red Planet".  I could go see the "Total Recall" remake, or the original version with Arnold ("Consider this a divorce!").  I have not seen "John Carter".

What Mars movies would keep you awake until the results are in from the Olympic Mars Landing competition?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Passport to the Solar System?

So, just noticed the inside back cover of the U.S. passport.  It looks like a picture of Voyager, Earth, and the moon.

Just thought that is kinda cool.  The pages all have good images of American scenes, but this one makes it seem like we can keep going.

No Visa needed to visit Pluto anymore, they removed that requirement.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Electrolysis rust removal

I took this hand plane from my Dad's garage. I think it belonged to my Grandfather, but I am not certain.

As you can see, it is a tad rusty, and the sole is covered in what looks like paint.

Once the plane is dismantled I see there are a bunch of parts that need some attention.

I've been reading various articles and wanting to try to use electrolysis to remove the rust.  Today the weather is beautiful, the kids have nothing on the schedule, and it seems I can spend the day taking care of this old tool. I've scanned a few instructions for performing this task, so this is more a report on how well it worked, rather than a how to.  For instructions you should check out the video on Woodworkers Guild of America, plus the detailed instructions, Mr. Vondriska does a nice job presenting the process, and has the idea of using a coffee can for the anode.  Instructions from Make: Magazine's project's blog by "Stan the Toolfool" and an article from Rick's Woodshop Creations.  After reading up on the process I was ready to get started.

Fortunately I have a neighbor who does a lot of car work and was willing to lend me his battery charger (thanks, Jeff), and a neighbor who has laundry soda (thanks Teri).  With leftover wire from the electromagnet experiment at the last science birthday party, a 6 gallon bucket, and an old coffee can we had laying around, I had everything I needed.

To make the anode I cut the coffee can in half to make two half cylinders.  I drilled 3 holes in each side and re-connected the pieces with wire.  I did this to give myself more room for the tools.  Since the plan is a No. 5 I had to use the 6 gallon bucket, plus this expanded anode, to make room.  That process probably took the longest, as I was using 14ga wire and wearing gloves so I didn't lacerate my hands on sharp can edges.  I also put a hole on either half at the top and wired up the leads there.

Checking the fit before filling with water/soad ash solution.
I first did the blade, half of which was covered in surface rust.  I mixed the soda ash in the water, put together all the pieces, and suspended the blade.

As soon as I fired up the charger I started seeing bubbles.  I wasn't getting 2 amps of current reading on the charger's ammeter, so I switched it up to the 6 setting.

After a while some sludge accumulated at the top.  I left the blade in for a couple hours.  I pulled it out a few times to check, it was pretty clear the process was working.
Mmmm, soup.

Sorry about my photography skills.  My worktable was now in the shade.  The black areas are where the rust was removed.
The body went in next. I was able to throttle the charger down to the 2 amp setting, maybe because this was a much bigger piece.  After a short while I took it out and was able to easily scrub off the paint from the sole, either because of the electrolysis or just from being soaked for a while.  This part seemed to get done very quickly, possibly the rust was only light on the surface.  After cleaning it up with a quick scrub I have a nice, black, rust-free piece of iron.  Wrapped up by running the chip breaker through the process.  I was going to do the frog too, but was worried about the adjustment knob being brass, and it is not in that bad of shape.

Everything got a light coat of machine oil.  The next phase is to sharpen the blade, chipbreaker, and lap the sole to flat.  I'm using a slab of marble with varying grits of sandpaper, I guess that is the "Scarysharp" method.  The sole looks good, with a few pits and scrapes that don't look too deep.  Hopefully it will only take a few hours of labor to straighten it up.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Jupiter Gazing

For the past few weeks I've noticed Jupiter hanging in the Eastern sky in the evenings from the front yard.  I keep telling myself that I'll get the old telescope out and see if it still works.  So, last night I actually did (in spite of the birthday party going on inside, 12 kids in the house is a good reason to hide in the yard.)  I have an old Meade Saturn reflector telescope, it's been sitting idle for years.  Found a few of the set screws are missing, and the equatorial mount is a bit loose, but I was able to put it together.

Brought it to the side yard between the houses, a bit shadowed from the porch lights of the neighborhood.  Very few stars are visible these days in the Northern Virginia area, lots of light pollution combined with the hazy sky.  I didn't bother aligning the equatorial mount for the scope, and the spotting scope is off kilter (that's where the set screws are missing).  First I did some views of the Moon, trying to capture the edge where you can see some terrain relief.  I could play for hours viewing the Moon, something about it is fascinating, probably because I read too much Heinlein.  The twins braved the chilly evening to see what was going on and seemed to think it was cool.

I spent some time finding Jupiter, which would have been easier if I had bothered to set up the telescope correctly; also had to play around to remember which eyepiece to use when scanning.  When I finally found it and saw 4 of the moons lined up next to it I was unexpectedly excited.  I was able to get all of the kids to parade through and take a look through the eyepiece, which went well as long as they followed the rule for "no touching the telescope while looking through" (had to re-find Jupiter once.)

A couple of the kids said they could make out banding on the planet.  I figured that was just artifacts from the telescope being dirty or something, but later I looked again and I agree, I think we could actually make out some banding.  Without the equatorial mount set up right the planet would zoom across the view at higher magnification, so fixing the alignment would make it easier to keep in view and get some more detail.

So, has the stargazing bug bit me?  We'll see if I get the telescope out more often, fix the missing pieces, and figure out how to properly use it.  Anyone up for a star party this winter?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Windows

A few years ago someone in the neighborhood had cool silhouette coverings for their windows - dead tree branches, a skeleton, maybe some other things.  They looked neat; either they were store-bought or the people at that house were much more talented than me.  We first did this a couple years ago, thought I'd post about it this year.

I thought that would be a fun project.  I have a big roll of brown paper from some other project, I think I got it from the paint section at the hardware store.  Marker, scissors, and tape, measuring tape, and we are off and running.

  1. Measure the window and cut the paper to size, try to cover the entire window.  I just painted the living room a few weeks ago, so I cut the paper small enough to tape on the window, rather than the wall.
  2. Materials
  3. Draw Jack-o-lantern face
As creative as you want.
May need to spread out where there is room.

 4. Cut out the face, as if you were cutting out a pumpkin (without the pumpkin guts, but with more risk of paper cut.)

Proper technique for cutting the holes out.

5. Tape up to the windows for the whole neighborhood to see

In the past I have cut out squares of colored transparent film, like the stuff sold at craft stores to wrap up gift baskets.  Tape orange film over the openings, so from the outside the pumpkin glows orange. Or, cut out an alien and use green.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Floating Glow Display

We made an attempt at building the Floating Glow Display described on Make: Projects.  This was a fun build; of course, I had to make it harder than it had to be. Our idea was to make "U.S.A." in red, white, and blue.

For some reason, a long time ago I had bought a sheet of acrylic/polycarbonate, so I used part of that for the sign. The Dremel Trio made carving into the plastic sheet fairly easy, although I find the dept adjustment on the Trio a little difficult to fine-tune.
Jessie finishing up the engraving.  She was a bit nervous about it at first, then I think she had fun.

Wired up 3 LEDs to a 9V battery, with some resistors in the loop to keep from blowing it out (tested the circuit on a breadboard first).  Not the neatest wiring job, but some heat shrink tubing hides some of my sloppy soldering.  

A bit of Shapelock for a stand and we're done, here's the finished product:
And, with the lights off and the battery plugged in:

The blue LED gets pretty washed out by the white, it actually looks more colorful in the picture than in reality. I will have to find a lower intensity white LED for this build.

Now I have made something that I can bring to Maker Faire in NYC this weekend.