Archive for Making

Solar Nerdiness

So as mentioned I have been pretty nerdy about this whole solar thing. I am logging as I go as well as jotting down useful things as I learn them. Actually getting up and running was really easy, fine tuning is a bit trickier, and actually understanding what is going on is downright fiddly.

My initial solar panel is a Coleman 18watt (1.2 amps at 15 volts). A basic little thing with very plug and play wiring. I am using the 7amp charge controller that came with it. The charge controller can theoretically handle another four of these panels before I would outgrow it but I have no idea if it is actually that robust. It does seem to be doing its job though so I’ll keep using it until I find out otherwise… or it explodes for some reason.

The charge controller has a 13 volt cut-in. If I understand correctly this means that no charging takes place unless there is at least 13 volts coming from the panel. My guess is that this is because trying to charge a 12 volt battery with 9 volts would be useless if not actually detrimental… but I have no facts to back up that thought as of yet. It also has a cut-out of 14.25 volts… If this means it refuses to charge if the panel is operating at its theoretical maximum then this could be a little troubling come summer… But I am sure there are very good reasons for it.

The Panel and controller are feeding in to a 12 volt deep cycle marine battery from Rural King… I don’t really know anything useful about the battery but assume its about 45 amp hours… it was cheap. I keep forgetting to actually write down the model number and research it.

Coming out of that is a Microsolar 300 watt pure sine wave inverter. I understand that inverters eat a lot of power converting 12 volt to 110 volts, but I haven’t really dug deep enough for an easy way to run my modem and router directly off of 12 volts yet. I can get a 12 volt power supply for my current laptop, but I am running it mostly off of its battery at this point to try to get as much online time as possible. Plus I’ll want to eventually run some lighting as well so the inverter stays.

In theory it should give a warning alarm when voltage starts to get low, then another alarm as it shuts off. In practice it skips the first alarm entirely and just goes right to the shutdown and at some rather wildly different voltage levels that seem really high (over 11 volts). For now I am chalking it up to just being a pretty cheap unit, but I’m keeping my eye on it and almost certainly it is just a starting point until I can afford something serious.

My main measurement device at the moment is a little volt meter I got from radio shack sometime in the last decade. I really need to add a Kill-A-Watt or similar device and maybe start recording temperatures as well.

That’s enough nerdsplosion for now. If you are one of the four people who are actually curious about this then there will be more to come. And if you are one of the two people who Know Relevant Things, please feel free to comment here or in FriendBookFaceSpace and tell me everything I am blatantly overlooking.

 

The power of the sun!

So as of a few days ago I have harnessed the power of the sun for my own purposes.

At the moment the system consists of an 18 watt solar panel, the cheapest charge controller on the planet, the cheapest deep cycle marine battery I could find, and a 300 watt pure sine wave inverter.

I have been keeping very nerdy notes and tracking how it does for a few days and I am a little disappointed. A full day of charging got me about four hours of power running my modem, router, and a laptop… The battery never charged past 11.66 volts. This is probably pretty good for such a minimal setup in the winter, but I hoped for more. In the near future I hope to add another solar panel which will, in theory, get me up to a full 12 volts much faster. I am kind of seat-of-my-pants learning this as I go and it’s a lot of fun.

More as things develop with lots of really nerdy numbers.

Making No-Face.

GenCon is happening this weekend.

I will talk another time about what I like and dislike about GenCon, but for now it suffices to say that I am not going this year (and that’s fine).

Some of my work is going though!

My sweetie is working the D20 Burlesque show doing kittening/stage management/general awesomeness and decided on doing No-Face from Spirited Away for her costume.

As all costume events seem to go this meant we were scrambling at midnight to finish the mask and solve other problems. I made the mask for her out of “fun foam” which did not quite behave as I expected it to. The whole project was, in fact, a wonderful illustration in the difference between Knowing and Doing. It was frustrating and stressful but I learned a lot and am rather happy with he way it came out given the timing and the fact that most of the techniques were being learned/invented as I went.

One of these days I will start taking better step by step shots of projects… But here is the finished mask.


Shot with an ipad under nasty kitchen fluorescent lighting, but you get the idea.

Enter The Shredder

No not this guy…


Some time ago I came across Nuclear Snail Studios on YouTube. I have always had a love of the post-apocalyptic, the scavenged, and the improvised and this guys approach to such things tickled me. I marathon watched all his videos then began eyeing my pants in ways that made the garment uncomfortable.

With the awesome new Mad Max movie still occupying a remarkable amount of my waking thoughts two months after having seen it I suspect my sewing machine and I are going to be doing cruel things to some of my more worn out clothes in the near future… Buckles… I need more buckles…

This video in particular caught my attention. I loved his shredder tool and immediately wanted one. The problem seemed to be that the particular type of modular hole saw he used was not favored in any hardware store I frequented and I could absolutely not be bothered to do much more research into sourcing one with a thousand other projects  looming and a major move across the country demanding my attention.

But guess what… I found one! Cheap!

Here then is my Shredder.


I carved the handle from a hardwood dowel and used the center drill from the hole saw as a tang. The head is still removable if I get some weird idea to actually mount it on a drill or something… Hmmm… But the tang is well and truly epoxied into the handle so I will need to make a new one.


He’s a brutal little guy isn’t he? I think he will rust up and age very attractively and some day someone will find it in a box and wonder what the hell great grandpa was up to.

Now to find some scrap leather and make him a holster.

My first scooter mod

One of the things that attracted me to the Honda Ruckus was the open frame construction. The big open area under the seat just screams potential to me.

The one problem of all this potential is that is just that. The area is great for holding a bag of laundry or a bag of cat litter… But with the wide open sides if you don’t stuff it full you rust having things just fly away as you ride.

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so I did something about that.

I had this roll of plastic mesh at  Bloominglabs so I dug it out and cut some panels roughly the size I wanted them.

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I also grabbed a bag of zip-ties and a pair of “titanium” EMT shears.

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I have some issues with the wasteful nature of zip-ties, but they were there and I didn’t have anything better at the moment.

the front panel just needed to be trimmed a little and installed.

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The back panel was a more challenging shape and I had to nibble away bits until it fit.

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The sides were the same shape so I just made two and cut out a little area for the helmet lock.

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With the ties trimmed I had my cargo area nicely closed off and Rocinante looks 15% more post-apocalyptic!

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Done! Though as soon as I find them I will replace the zip-ties with Velcro straps so I can pull off the panels when I need to.

 

Budget GM Screen

Alternate title 1: Redneck Referee Screen.

Note for the uninitiated: A GM (game master) screen, also known as a referee’s screen, is a folded screen you place on the table between the person running a role playing game and those playing it. This is done to hide important notes, maps, die rolls, and the like from the players. These can run up to $20 or more for one specific to a game and are usually just thin cardstock with pre-printed charts and tables of which one or two will ever be something you actually ever use.

So anyway. I was in the dollar store buying 20 gallons of bleach (never mind why) and I noticed a big bin of small whiteboards.

 

This started my brain a’ thinkin, so I bought four of them.

Whiteboards

Since I already had some duct tape (is anyone surprised?) this brings the total budget of this project to $4 and change. If you were starting from absolutely nothing you would have to grab a knife and some tape so the total could top $6.

After unwrapping we can see what we have. Basically a piece of cardboard with a glossy side, a few magnets, a crappy pen, and some rubber and staples.

Front Back

I don’t want or need most of this so almost carefully, I started tearing them apart.

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Some were stapled, some were glued, but the rubber game away easily enough, and the hot glue holding the magnets on was quickly defeated with minimal cardboard scarring.

This left me with my four panels and a pile of junk.

Pile of junk

I separated out the potentially useful bits and threw the rest away.

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The pens, though crappy, have some ink in them and so will last a little while. And each one has a little felt eraser to clean up the whiteboard with. I’m keeping them until they wear out. The little clips that held them on to the whiteboards might be useful, and while I am not using them for this project… Everyone loves magnets!

these all got set aside and I laid out the panels.

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You could also lay them out the long way for a wider shorter screen. I may do this in the future if I make another one since I am rapidly becoming a fan of shorter screens for reasons I may one day discuss.

between two screens I laid down a very carefully measured and positioned strip of tape (it was about long enough and placed just about thereabouts). It is good to remember at this point that the tape will form a hinge and so there should be a little space between boards.

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Yes, I am doing this on a pile of wooden pallets… A lot of things in my life happen on a pile of Woden pallets now.

But I digress… I then carefully folded the ends up and worked the tape down into the hinge.

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I wanted to make sure the tape formed a little valley so it wouldn’t be too taught for the hinge to work well.

I added a strip to each in the cardboard side, working it into the valley as I went.

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And repeated for each hinge.

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At this point I could easily just call it done and start using the thing… But I wanted to get just a touch fancier.

I started laying down slightly overlapping strips of tape to cover the bare cardboard side. Note: do not do this to the whiteboard side or you might as well have just cut up a cardboard box and saved yourself the $4.

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Leaving a little border of cardboard showing I covered the entire back of the screen.

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I left eft this border because I wanted to pit a strip along the edge. This would make it look a little neater (really, do we actually care about that at this point?) and will make the edges more durable.

i laid a strip along the sides from the whiteboard side (so I could make the border as narrow as possible on the side I actually want to use).

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And folded it it over onto the back.

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Next i I laid two long pieces along the top and bottom.

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And folded them as well, being careful to keep the hinges nice and tight.

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I really could have have been more careful about the corners, making them nice and rounded or tight right angles… But I absolutely could not be bothered to.

Again, this could be a great place to finish. It’s done, it works! I can stand it up and write lots of gamey stuff on it and the players will have no idea what horrors I have planned for them!

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And it folds up smaller than an average game book!

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But I have all these pens… And the clips… So let’s throw those in for the fun of it.

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The he clip fits neatly over the edge, and a little bit of tape holds it steady.

But I have more pens!

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So with a little trial and error I added a couple more so they wouldn’t collide when I folded up the screen.

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And -now- I will call it done! $4 and a few minutes of work and I can toss it in my game bag and be out the door ready to play. The tape will make the whole thing durable enough to withstand weeks and weeks of abuse and when the terrible pens go bad I can easily replace them at the dollar store with a set of colored ones for another dollar.

A cool addition I just thought of would be to use the magnets along the top edge of the back to hold sheets of paper meant for the players to see… And saving a couple pieces to make a magnetic clasp to hold the whole thing shut.

have fun, and go get ’em!