The Big Think

April 30, 2008

Cool Tools

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 12:53 am

How to make the world’s smallest violin?

With the world’s smallest hand (finger?) plane.

Micro Plane.jpg

more here.

Shop Time

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 12:09 am

This is becoming a (very enjoyable) habit. Yesterday (monday), I spent 6 hours in the shop, and pulled another 7 today. 66 hours in total on the ent. cent, and it’s starting to look like a piece of furniture! I think I could probably speed things up by at least 50% if all of my machines and stationary tools had permanent homes. As it is, the table saw is the only thing that lives in one spot. Each of the other major tools (band saw, planer, jointer) have to be moved to one particular spot in order to be used. I only have one tube from the dust collector so if I want to use the band saw I have to move the planer out of the way, or if I want to use the jointer, I have to shift the planer aside. It makes for a whole lot of moving and shifting, and a piece of wood might have to visit every machine before it gets glued into place. Then the whole dance has to start over again. I’ve gotten pretty good about looking ahead and doing as much as I can on one tool, but I often have to complete one piece of wood before I can move on to the next.

I love my shop. It’s a nice big 2 car garage. I’m not complaining. Indeed, I have a friend who works out of a very small 1 car garage. It’s ridiculous how little space he has in there. Still, one of these days I’m going to build me a big place where all the tools can be bolted to the freaking floor, never to have to move again. With their own dust collection and outfeed tables.

What the hey, as long as I’m wishing, I want a pony.

April 29, 2008

Cognitive Surplus

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 10:30 am

…someone working alone, with really cheap tools, has a reasonable hope of carving out enough of the cognitive surplus, enough of the desire to participate, enough of the collective goodwill of the citizens, to create a resource you couldn’t have imagined existing even five years ago.

So that’s the answer to the question, “Where do they find the time?” Or, rather, that’s the numerical answer. But beneath that question was another thought, this one not a question but an observation. In this same conversation with the TV producer I was talking about World of Warcraft guilds, and as I was talking, I could sort of see what she was thinking: “Losers. Grown men sitting in their basement pretending to be elves.”

At least they’re doing something.

Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan’s Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don’t? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn’t posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. I was forced into the channel of media the way it was because it was the only option. Now it’s not, and that’s the big surprise. However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it’s worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter…

…And this is the other thing about the size of the cognitive surplus we’re talking about. It’s so large that even a small change could have huge ramifications. Let’s say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That’s about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 100 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.

Read the rest of the really fascinating article here.

April 28, 2008

So Long, Winter

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 1:05 am

Not to be a pessimist, but I suspect that today’s odd 60 degree weather is the last gasp of Old Man Winter. We shall not see his like again. For about eight months. Thus begins my least favorite season: the three quarters of a year we Texans like to call Summer. Here comes the triple digits.

I think this year I’ll finally break down and get the A/C in my truck working. I’ve toughed it out for the last three years but I’ve about had it. Melting away in a 120 degree car in the Texas sun has gotten old.

Sorry to be cranky, but I really do hate the hot weather around here. Bleah.

April 27, 2008

Metal and Rain Do Not Mix

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 2:32 pm

It’s 57 degrees and rainy. My absolute favorite weather (except for the wind- I really don’t like wind). What in the world am I doing inside?!?

Time to change back into the grubbies and go find something I can do in the shop with the door closed. I can’t work the main machines when it rains because they’re right next to the garage door. If the cast iron tops get wet they’ll rust in about ten minutes. No kidding- 10 minutes. You can almost stand and watch it happen. Only the most generous and frequent application of paste wax to their tops keeps them from turning red and flakey from rust. So if it’s raining I can’t use the table saw or planer (the two machines I need to use to finish the ent. cent. top).

But I’m sure I can find something else that needs to be done. It’s too cold and rainy to stay inside. I’m off!

UPDATE: 4 hours in the shop. The rain quit and I got a bit done-mainly a glue up on the bookcase tops, plus a lot of standing around cogitating on future problems to be solved. There’s a lot of ’em. Tomorrow is the main top glue up and… more sanding! Yay! 🙁

April 26, 2008

Shop Time

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 11:44 pm

Another 9 hours in the shop today working in the ent. cent. I’ve got the main carcasse glued up. Thanks to neighbor James for helping move the beast off of the work table, and for the ant killer in the yard. 🙂

I had to rout out a groove in the back for the back piece, then plane and joint more wood for the top of the center and two side book cases. I had all the wood for these tops all laid out and ready to plane (6 pieces each 7 inches wide and 60 inches long), and realized that it was over $130 in lumber! Don’t screw it up.

I screwed it up.

Well, to be fair, I really didn’t, but the results are sub-optimal. I wanted to leave as much of the inch thick lumber remaining so the top could be very thick. As thick as possible, preferably 7/8ths of in inch. I feel that this thickness balances the heft of the rest of the piece. Unfortunately, the wood has to cooperate. If you’re planing 4 pieces of 7 inch wide wood that’ll eventually be one solid top, you are limited by the maximum thickness of the roughest piece of wood. Put another way, the lumber comes from the yard very rough, and you have to run it through the planer and jointer until both sides have no imperfections. If there’s still an imperfection (a saw mark or a low spot), you have to run them ALL through until they match the thickness of the thinnest piece. My thinnest piece ended up being almost exactly 3/4 of an inch (1/8th inch less than I had hoped). So by the time I caught it I had already hogged off than extra 1/8th inch from all the boards. It’s not a catastrophic deal by any stretch of the imagination. It only means that the top of the entertainment center will be 1/8th inch thinner than I had designed. Still, it rankles. I turned 1/4th of my $130 pile of lumber into sawdust getting everything smooth. That’s a trash bag full of $33 in shavings and dust. Ug. That’s woodworking, though: turning large pieces of wood into small pieces of wood.

Next step is to joint and glue up the tops. One of the boards I worked today had the most spectacularly rayed grain I’ve ever seen. It’ll be my showpiece board in the best position (closest to the door). The other bookshelf has a serviceable grain, but nothing to write home about. The top of the center section is very nice, but I have to do some creative grain matching since I went ahead and used a new board in place of the too-thin one I described above. I’ll still use the too-thin one for trim (got just the place for it), so it’s no loss.

In the last three days I’ve put over 20 hours of work into the entertainment center. I can now put all three basic carcasses next to each other and get a feel for the size of the piece. It’s wide but not too tall. Nice proportions. I told Erin today that I fell like 1/3rd of the time spent on any project is the basic structure build, 1/3rd is spent detailing, and 1/3rd is spent on the finish. The detailing (trim, face frames, ebony inlays, doors) will start as soon as the tops are done (another couple of days).

Incidentally, I found this site tonight while looking around for design ideas. I wasn’t surprised to find out that this craftsman charges up to $9000 for some of his work. Next time you look at a hand made piece and wonder if it’s really worth 10 times what you could buy a cheap dept. store version, just remember that I (a much less qualified and talented woodworker) just spent 40 hours doing a basic carcasse build. I aspire to that level of quality some day and certainly don’t begrudge him what he charges. It’s beautiful work.



Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 11:26 pm

“Human flight will not be achievable for 1 to 10 million years.”

The New York Times, two weeks before the Wright Bros. flew at Kitty Hawk.

April 25, 2008

One Wheeled Wonder

Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 9:24 am

The unholy (but cool) offspring of a unicycle and a Segway.


Tabletop Tesla

Filed under: Mad Science — jasony @ 9:11 am

Saw these guys at Makerfaire last year. Awesome tesla Mario!

Sean and I might just have our next project.

Shop Time

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 8:50 am

Got a glorious 8 hours in the shop yesterday (1-9pm). Pretty sore today, but I have a lot to show for it.

Two days ago I went to the lumberyard and got 2 more QSRO boards to make the right side of the main carcasse. Pretty panful to the wallet. Each board was 7 inches wide, 10 feet long, and about $35. In all, it took 4 boards just to make the 2 sides of the main carcasse, for a grand total of $140 in lumber! It would have cost about $80 if I’d have made it out of ply, and I would have had enough left over for all of the shelves, but this is a once-in-my-lifetime project. If it ends up costing more to use the very best lumber, and if it looks correspondingly spectacular, it’s a price I’ll gladly pay, especially since it’ll still be cheaper than buying the thing new.

Anyway, I came home and planed/jointed/glued the panels up and let them sit overnight, then yesterday I spent 2 hours standing in one place sanding, sanding, sanding the two main side panels. This, dear friends, is why God invented the iPod. The thing saved my sanity (thanks again, Tim! It’s running like a champ!). I gone through literally hundreds (probably over 1000) podcasts while in my shop. It’s a great way to keep up with what’s going on in the world. It’s also nice that I can make a custom, for-Jason-only audible “newspaper” that covers the topics I’m interested in. Tech, woodworking, science, etc. Right now I have 632 podcasts waiting to be listened to, and I’m sure I’ll eventually get to them all.

So after the sanding (sanding, sanding, sanding) was done I spent the next several hours carefully measuring and cutting the dados and grooves for the cross-pieces in the center section. Unfortunately, I messed up one of the cuts (DOH!), but luckily it was in a place that’ll be virtually invisible in the finished project (inside the cabinet area). Plus, I think I’ll be able to fill the dado with a piece of wood so that it’ll be much less obvious. WHEW. That was a close one. If I’d have screwed up on a more visible area I’d have been kicking myself.

It was amazing that six cuts (well, twelve, but I ganged the pieces together and cut both at once) took so long. It was almost three hours between start and finish, but I’m absolutely perfectionistic about these cuts. Since I’m making grooves on $140 worth of wood panels, it’s really important that I get it right.

Today Erin and I are going back to the lumberyard to get wood for the top of the cabinet. This has got to be the most beautiful and flawless wood I can find since it’s right on top where everybody can see it. Then I’ll come back and start assembling the center section from all these random pieces. I have to connect five large shelves of plywood (52″ x 21″) to the solid wood side pieces (60″ x 21″) in such a way that the solid sides are free to move with humidity, but still hold everything together tightly. How is this done? With buttons, of course. The idea is that you cut a small groove on one surface, then connect something solidly to the other surface in such a way that the perpendicular planes are held together in one dimension, but are allowed to slide in the other dimension. Here is a picture of a metal “button”. I’ll be making mine out of wood because it’s more authentic and because I can customize them to my needs. Here’s a better pic.

After the center carcasse is assembled I’ll spend another day planing and gluing up the three top pieces, then cut and sand (SAND! SAND!) it. Once it’s fastened on I’ll start in on the face frame. Lots of detail and work to come. I’m probably not even halfway there yet. Racing the summer heat.

April 24, 2008


Filed under: Audio,Humor and Fun,Movies — jasony @ 10:12 am

April 22, 2008

Cool Clock

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 9:51 pm

Ckeck out this amazing clock, made from the hands of hundreds of tiny sub-clocks.

April 21, 2008


Filed under: Audio — jasony @ 10:08 pm

Holy Cow, Snapper is cool. I might have to get me that thar thingie. It would sure beat spending a ton of time in the finder clicking and manipulating a lot of files.

The Death of Good Cinema SF

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 5:54 pm

Erik Sofge expounds upon the lameness that is current Hollywood “Science Fiction”


Filed under: Mad Science,Woodworking — jasony @ 2:34 pm

Behold, the Power of BONDO!

Shop Update

Filed under: Telescope,Woodworking — jasony @ 2:13 pm

Had a rather long night last night with a bout of insomnia from 4-6:30am. No matter, though, because I was able to get some good mental design work done on the telescope. I have a good rough idea of the case that I’m going to build for it. It’s roughly modeled after a beautiful paduak and curly maple briefcase I saw. Still have to figure out a way to do the inlay work, and the exact design/materials for the inlay.

Speaking of inlay, I’ve come to a decision about a spectacular detail on the tube of the telescope, but I’m going to keep that one under my hat. Grin.

It may not look like it, but “work” is proceeding on the design. 99% of it is mental at this point (in more ways than one), but once I get the design figured out in my head and go through a virtual imaginary assembly, I should have most of the build issues worked out. That’ll save me grief and time once the construction begins. I still anticipate that it’ll be 4-5 years until the whole project is completed. It’s been a real joy to just be able to spend months thinking and incorporating different ideas that I see into the design. No rush to commit to anything or start building immediately- I’ve got plenty of other stuff to build in the meantime.

Speaking of which, time to go to the shop this afternoon. The sides of the ent. cent. are almost finished (except for the trim and doors). Next step is the center case, then I’ll go back and face frame the whole thing. Then build doors. Construction stalled this past week because of other commitments, but it should get back on track this week.

Real Homer

Filed under: Humor and Fun,Movies — jasony @ 12:00 pm

What would Homer Simpson look like as a real person? This. Yikes.

April 18, 2008

I’m In Love

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 9:40 pm

I think I found another “someday” project. Swoopy, on this page. Wow.

Nuff Said

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 9:37 pm


Tax Control

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 10:27 am

Interesting take on the tax code.

In place of the limitless variety that emerges when individuals plan their own lives in a free society, tax laws strive to impose a dreary sameness–as if every individual should get married, have children, buy a home and save for retirement on a government-approved schedule–and as if every company should look to bureaucrats for the one true path to selecting real estate, equipment, fuels, employees and financing. Such artificial homogeneity has no place in the tax policy of a government dedicated to protecting individual rights…

…Imagine reasserting ourselves as rational, sovereign individuals, whose rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness include the right to choose values without asking society’s permission–and without chasing our own money, like lab rats sniffing cheese, down the twisting corridors of a labyrinthine tax code.

more here.

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