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Iron Sharpening

The iron on the Stanley plane needed a good bit of love. The bevel wasn’t square and it was quite dull. A good bit of work was going to be needed to bring this puppy back into shape.

First, I squared off the bevel on the bench grinder. Having a good tool rest is essential in getting something you can work with. The first attempt I made was with my bare hands and the bevel just was too messy to make the next step of sharpening easy. After I installed a tool rest from Peachtree Woodworking, I could get a nice, even bevel across the entire iron.

Second, I took it to a fairly rough oil stone to get the big bench grinder marks out. I think my oil stone is about 400 or 500 grit. A few minutes on the stone helped get things looking good for step 3.

Step 3 takes us to the first water stone. I purchased a two-sided King waterstone off of Amazon. The rough side is 1000 grit, the smoother side is 4000. I soaked the stone then started pushing and pulling the blade to get all the scratched out of the bevel. I also flipped the iron on its back to flatten it. This step took a little bit longer until I was happy with the scratches removed.

Step 4 is the 4000 grit side. You have to be careful because it’s easy to nick and gouge the surface with the blade/iron. I only pulled the blade towards me until the bevel was almost mirror like.

The final step is stropping. I glued a piece of leather, fuzzy side up on to a 3/4 inch piece of plywood and applied green buffing compound. 30 strokes on this brought the bevel to a mirror finish and the edge very sharp. I tested the edge by holding up a thermal receipt from the store and tried cutting it. Very easy and very clean cuts.

It’s ready for the wood now!

Testing new printing material and quick shop project

When I went to the New Orleans Mini Maker Faire, we saw a lot of things. One of the booths we stopped by was for Algix3D ( They are a company out of Meridian MS that produces filament for FDM printers. One of the interesting things about their filament is the fact they use algae as a component of the material. They have a focus on making materials that are sustainable.

They were nice enough to give me a sample of their DURA material. This is a material that is designed to rival ABS with better stress tolerance and less brittleness. It also doesn’t have the same chemical smell when printing which is better for those of you with sensitive noses. It is a little more flexible than ABS which can be great if you’re looking for something like a phone case that needs the impact resistance but it’s still easy to put on.

The sample wasn’t huge, so I needed a small project to test it out. I recently bought an adapter pack for my shop vac to connect to my table saw, but of course, not one of the connectors would actually work. So I took the trusty digital calipers down to the garage and made some measurements…

I designed the model in Fusion 360. I had never tried making anything with a parametric modeling platform. I’ve always used a vertex modeler like Blender for my 3D work. After just a simple tutorial from Autodesk, I was off and running and only spent 15 minutes making the model. One real benefit of parametric modeling is being able to go in and change parameters that affect the model. I didn’t give myself enough tolerance on the side that connects to the table saw. I needed to add half a millimeter. In Fusion 360, it was a matter of just changing a single parameter and suddenly my model was updated with the new sizes with no effort on my part. The export to STL was fast and simple and it was ready to print!


Overall the material did great. The temperature settings they recommended were spot on. With not a lot of contact area, the material does want some hair spray or similar stickiness on the bed. We have a PrintrBot Simple Metal. I was printing at 180 degrees extruder temp and 60 degrees bed temperature. Super smooth, no strings or anything.

One day later

Ok, so after 24 hours of soaking in white vinegar, it’s time to see what we’ve got. And what we’ve got is almost all the surface rust is gone after a good scrub with a wire brush.

After the vinegar, I washed all of the pieces in water with a little baking soda to try and bring the Ph back to normal. I then rubbed down each piece with WD40 and a paper towel to clean off the last bits and get a thin later of oil on the metal so they don’t immediately rust as things tend to do in this part of the world.




It’s bath time!

I bet you would look pretty prune-y if you took a bath in vinegar… But that’s what this Stanley No. 5 plane is doing. I received this plane as a gift from my father. It’s in rough shape with a lot of surface rust. The first place to start is pull the plane apart and soak it for at least 24 hours in white vinegar. All the screws came out pretty easily except one in the frog. I had to use some PB Blaster (squirt and let it soak in for 5-10 minutes) to get the screw to turn.

You can see in the last photo (12 hours in the soak) that pieces of rust are already starting to come off the metal.






New tools, new toys

Over the past few weeks I’ve been hard at work getting my garage set up to be my workshop. Here is a list of my improvements:

  1. Tool hangers on walls to get tools and bikes off the floor
  2. Built a quick sail loft above one garage door
  3. New wood on workbenches to provide a better surface to work
  4. New shelving system to organize garage items and make room for more tools
  5. Peg board on the back wall to organize tools
  6. Wired in a new electrical socket to power shop light and big power strip
  7. Hung new LED shop light and power strip
  8. Added casters to my workbench to make it quick and easy to move around

Tools that were either gifted or purchased:

  1. Makita 3606 router (used, replaced power cord and strain relief, thanks Dad)
  2. DeWalt miter saw
  3. Table saw on fold up stand with wheels
  4. Set of Stanley Sweetheart chisels (thanks Bro)
  5. New Japanese saws
  6. Combo square, bevel, mallet
  7. New workbench vise
  8. Shop vacuum
  9. Stanley No. 5 bench plane, type 18 (needs to be restored, thanks Dad)
  10. Block plane (thanks Dad)
  11. And various other small items

So now what? Well, it’s winter so the yard is probably too wet to work much outside, so it’s indoor projects. First item on the list is a king sized platform bed. My wife and I need more room with upcoming family changes, so a nice wide bed will be nice. Then some other furniture type items to help build out my wife’s craft area, improve storage, upgrade the living room, etc.

Of course, when I’m not working in the garage, I’ll be working on a computer. I also just go my Raspberry Pi Zero. It’s amazing what $5 will get these days. I think my Starbucks cost about that amount after tax… I haven’t quite figured out a good home for it, so I’m going to play for a while and see what this little thing is capable of.

Lot of projects in my head for 2016…


Ready to start prototyping

Ok, I’ve hooked up the LCD and compass breakout boards to my breadboard and ran test scripts on both to make sure both components are running. Now it’s time to do some coding!

As far as features go, I don’t want to get too complicated. I think I want heading, lift/header (with how much of change) and a historical lift/header average running down the side so you can see if you’re in a persistent lift or header, or just track ocilations to certain degree.

I think for the end-unit, I’ll need a larger LCD to be able to see it from 10-20 feet away, but this is a great place to start:



My soldering skills aren’t that bad

When I purchased my Adafruit kit, I also purchased the 5110 Nokia LCD screen and Triple-axis Magnetometer (Compass) Board – HMC5883L. Both of these breakout boards require that you solder on header in order to plug in to the breadboard. I haven’t soldering in a long time and I don’t remember being that good. Part of that I attribute to having a poor iron. I purchased a 30 watt variable temperature soldering iron with a small chisel tip (thanks to Norm and Will at for the “tip”). With the proper iron and the chisel tip, soldering on the headers was a breeze.

Of course it helps soldering to the right pins. I didn’t read ahead far enough when getting ready to test the LCD and soldered the header to the wrong set of pins. That gave me a chance to test my de-soldering skills…

I don’t have video of testing the magnetometer, but it was a matter of plugging in a few leads and loading the test file/sketch provided by Adafruit. Worked perfectly out of the box.

Same story with the LCD screen. Solder on the header, hook up the LCD and IC according to the instructions, load the libraries to the Adruino IDE, load up the sketch and this is what you get:

This won’t be the display I ultimate use to build my “production” version of the compass. This is just a low-cost display so I can understand and develop my display libraries for working with a graphic LCD instead of a character LCD. My plan is to use a larger, touch-enabled LCD for the production version.

Experimenting with my Adafruit Kit


I have a plan to build my own electronic compass for my sailboat. The idea of spending $500 on something I can make myself (while learning new things) just seems silly. I started this project with the Adafruit ARDX – v1.3 Experimentation Kit for Arduino. It comes with a lot of components which teach you quickly how to use the Arduino IDE and board in a variety of types of tasks. Here you can see I’m playing with 8 green LED and the micro servo that was included in the kit. Frankly I’m blown away at how simple they make these kind of experiments.