Archive for September, 2015

Nerd Tools

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

If You Can’t Learn in 2015, You are Beyond Hope

Today a few things about my progress in various areas.

First off, I found an incredible circuit analysis video.

As I have mentioned before, I have been trying to get back into (“back” is a kind exaggeration) electronics. I started watching MIT’s free online course, 6.002.

I found the book pedantic and tedious, and the professor didn’t explain things all that well. I started using other sources and compiling a notebook.

I came to realize that the MIT guy was not doing a good job. He taught things that were not useful, and he omitted things that were very useful. He may have a brain the size of a Subaru, but he is not the perfect teacher.

When you study electronics, you want to know what people who work with circuits actually do. You don’t need to learn a bunch of crap that only manifests in the real world in the homework problems of students.

Over the last week, I started writing my own method, and yesterday I checked Youtube for resources. I found this video:

You won’t believe it until you watch it, but this guy sums up six weeks’ worth of college lectures in 90 minutes, and he does it slowly.

The MIT guy taught me things that I can’t use. He told me about the “lumped matter discipline” and…other stuff I don’t remember. You don’t need to know all that. It’s filler for pedants. If you take out the junk he incorporated and you add some great things he left out, you get the video above.

Take a look. If you learn the material in the video, it will make any other class you might take make sense.

I’m sure there are huge benefits to the MIT course, once you have your legs under you, but you have to start with a solid foundation.

The video guy recommends LTSpice, which is a free program that lets you draw circuits and then run them in a virtual…space or whatever. Easier than breadboarding. I have the program, and the learning curve seems pretty flat. I was able to turn it on and draw a circuit without studying. You can find it by Googling.

I’m also enjoying a graduate-level solid state physics course. This is the course that killed me as a physicist. Well, this and quantum. I got burned out, and they had me on ADD drugs that made me nearly crazy, and I got a D in solid state.

The professor who taught the course was awful, and the department at UT Austin was not helpful at all. It was a horrible experience, losing physics. A slow-motion trainwreck on a locomotive with the brake lever welded open. Of course, even though UT was not exactly nurturing, it’s my fault. I was out of God’s favor because I chose to be.

It would be wonderful to master this course and do problems successfully. Just a closure thing.

I found this guy on Youtube. It’s easy to find undergrad physics on the web, but graduate stuff is less available. Someone uploaded his videos, and they came up in a Youtube search.

His name is Sandro Scandolo, and he teaches at an instution called ICTP, in Italy. Even if you don’t know physics well at all, if you’re technically inclined, you will enjoy the first lecture. His style is wonderful. Patient, conversational, and very organized.

ICTP has a website, and if you burrow around in it, you can find other graduate courses. You can download them as flash or Apple movies. I leave finding them to you.

I plan to watch the whole course, even if I don’t do problems. I am smart enough to understand this stuff even if I don’t take the time to put it to work. Simply understanding it will make me feel better.

If you want technical texts for home study, I can recommend two resources. First, Scrib’d. You may have moral qualms about it, so caveat emptor. It’s a site with zillions of PDF uploads. You pay nine bucks a month. Much of the material is not copyrighted, so you can read it without feeling bad. Another resource is Amazon Marketplace. When you look for a hardcover text that costs $200 in the US (they have gone up that much, believe it or not), you will often find links to people who sell gray-market paperbacks for under twenty bucks. Same books. No infringement. I have two of them, and a third is on the way.

If you go crazy and decide to study solid state, get Ashcroft. I also found a book by a guy named McKelvey. Very nice. Kittel is a torture device. Naturally, it’s the book UT used. I still have my copy. I should waterboard it.

People say Kittel was a genius, but that doesn’t mean he could write books people could actually learn from.

CAD is going well. I have no complaints about Fusion 360. I’m sorry I paid so much for Alibre and Dolphin, but I did my best to find good programs, and that’s what I came up with in my first attempts. I’ll post a jpg of a part I’m making.

09 22 15 Fusion 360 Lathe Tool Post with extraneous crap removed

I’ve always sneered at 3D printers. Now that I can do CAD and send files to a printer, I sort of wish I had one. I checked into them last week, and I found that I was right to sneer. They’re still toys, and they make rough parts made of weak materials. If you have $500,000 you can get a really nice one that makes things you can use, but I think I’ll pass.

Maybe I should get a crummy one now just so I’ll get to know the technology.

The Autodesk Fusion 360 forum is a lifesaver. That, alone, makes it worth downloading and using. I tried CNCZone when I was struggling with Alibre and Dolphin, but the kids on that forum tend to be nonhelpful and self-absorbed, and they can also be rude.

I am back to music study. I returned to I recommend it. It produces random pages of music for practice. They’re not tunes. Just notes. It’s helpful because you will involuntarily memorize tunes as you work on them, and once that happens, it’s not sightreading. You can’t memorize random junk, so it keeps the proper area of the brain working.

That’s all I have right now. I hope it will be useful to someone.

I am an Obama Voter

Monday, September 28th, 2015

You Probably are, Too

My interest in politics keeps shrinking.

I used to come here and write about politics all the time, like a greyhound chasing the devil’s useless electric rabbit. I had a lot of fun, but it was a poisonous waste of time. I wish I could take it back.

The truth is that our problems are not caused by poor voting habits. Our poor voting habits are symptoms of a greater evil: lack of submission to God.

Most of us have no prayer lives, and that is true in far-out, tongue-speaking churches as well as among the general population. We don’t know God. We have no interest in his correction or in being commanded by him. Some of us show up on Sundays, checking in like weekend dads, but generally, not much happens during the week.

Here’s a downer for you: Republicans elected Obama.

We elected Obama by voting with our lack of prayer. If we prayed, we would be changing ourselves as well as whatever other individuals are susceptible to change. God would see us as his children, and he would have an incentive to protect us and bless us. Because we don’t pray, he has a strong incentive to punish us and make us suffer. If we don’t suffer, we are not likely to turn to him and pay attention to him.

You can blame illegals and vacuous welfare-minded professional victims, but those people would have no power had we not given it to them.

morpheus christian conservatives elected obama

I have felt pleased with myself about not voting for Obama and his kind. That was dumb. I did vote for them. I lived for myself, wandering in futility and self-deceit. My supernatural vote was much more powerful than showing up in a booth and checking off boxes.

I am an Obama voter. And unless you had a strong prayer life before 2008, so are you.

I don’t watch the news any more. I pick things up on the web, but that’s about it. I don’t contribute money to campaigns. I’m not even sure I’ll stay in the NRA. But I will contribute where it counts: in private with God. I’ve been doing that for a number of years now, and I plan to continue.

My suggestion is that you quit deluding yourselves and start praying. Don’t start out by asking God to drop the boot on Obama. Start out by asking God very sincerely for correction. Repent. Beg him to show you what’s wrong with you. Ask him for his help in changing. Ask him to connect you with the Holy Spirit and to help you obey him. Ask him to cut off the spirits that rule you now.

If you don’t have a prayer life, you’re ruled by spirits that work for Satan. You may not realize it, and things may seem to be going well, but that just means Satan is leaving you to coast because you’re ineffective in God’s kingdom. Whenever he sees the need, he will take what you have and destroy you, and you will not be able to fix it.

This will be very helpful to you if you aren’t too arrogant to listen. If you’re arrogant, forget I wrote it and let the rest of us discuss it without interference.

One Bad Turn Deserves Another

Friday, September 18th, 2015

Exploring the Habits of the Chinese Woodchuck

I know I am a renowned CAD/CNC genius, so you probably think that’s all I do. WRONG. I’m still working on my plan to become a woodturner.

I used to look at guys who had lathes and think they were mentally ill. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but I thought they were kind of silly compared to men who did regular woodworking. Whatever you call woodworking that isn’t turning.

I thought, “These are eccentric old coots who drive around stealing stumps out of people’s garbage so they can make bowls you can’t actually use and Christmas ornaments their relatives throw out.”

That was actually correct.

Nonetheless, I had to use my metal lathe to make an oak bench dog the other day, and I realized I was wasting half of the machine’s potential. And woodturning produces useful things as well as strange crap. Often people who don’t turn wood use flat or rectangular parts in places where round parts will work better.

I started looking around and asking for advice on forums. The forums where I haven’t been preemptively banned yet for asking stupid questions.

I found out that a metal lathe will work quite well for wood. In some ways, it’s vastly superior to a wood lathe. It’s a billion times more ridgid. You can use the carriage to make precise parts. You can make threads with it.

I think I’m out of things it can do better.

Anyway, the pluses outweigh the minuses, so it’s definitely worth doing.

In order to make it work, I needed a tool rest. This is a thing that clamps on the lathe’s ways. A T-shaped “T rest” sits on it, and you rest your turning tool (“chisel”) on the T rest when you cut wood.

On a metal lathe, you use a heavy steel or iron tool post to hold tools for you, and the carriage moves the tool. On a wood lathe, you slide the chisel back and forth on top of the T.

There are chintzy ways of using a metal lathe tool post for a rest, but they’re stupid, so I decided to make a banjo.

Now you wonder what that means.

A banjo is the actual base of the tool rest. I’m pretty sure. It’s the part that sits on the ways.

Don’t ask me why they call it a banjo. Maybe it gets on people’s nerves and repels women.

I had some live oak trash lying around, and I decided to try to make the base of the banjo out of it. I sliced open a fairly green log and cut some pieces out on the table saw and band saw. Then I turned some pegs on the lathe and stuck them in one of the big parts. They go through two holes in the other parts, and they line the base up with the clampy thing that goes under the ways.

Some photos may help.

09 11 15 live oak for lathe banjo

09 13 15 live oak lathe clamp with pins added

09 18 15 lathe tool rest in progress after machining flat banjo deal

That last photo is a piece of angle iron I worked on today. I will fix an upright tube to it, with a set screw in it. The T rest, which I don’t have, will sit in the tube. I will run a 1/2″ bolt through the wooden base, and when I want to move the metal bit, I’ll loosen the bolt. Then I’ll clamp it down to fix it.

The live oak surprised me. It’s supposed to be garbage. They say it cracks and warps, but it hasn’t split since I cut it, and it doesn’t appear to be moving. It’s like titanium. I have to wonder if it’s stronger than aluminum.

I think the pegs are red oak. Not sure. I needed dowels, and Home Depot was out, so instead of a 36″ dowel that cost five bucks, I bought a 72″ roller handle for six bucks. The wood in the roller handle is really nice. Do they have red oak in China? I don’t know.

I’m planning to rig up a base for the T rest tube tomorrow, and then I’ll install the tube and start thinking about a rest. Maybe I should just buy one.

Chisels are not expensive. I learned a few things about them.

First, there are two main types of chisels. The first are carbon steel, also known as “crap.” That’s not exactly true, but carbon steel dulls fast. It will give you a nice finish, but you have to sharpen it a lot. The second type of chisel is high speed steel (“HSS”), which is what metal lathe tools are made of. It’s a lot harder, so it holds an edge better.

Second, there are two types of HSS chisels: Chinese and not Chinese.

You can get fairly good Chinese HSS chisels at Harbor Freight, or you can buy a brand called Benjamin’s Best, which is probably the same thing. People say they work okay.

I read some disturbing things about Chinese chisels, so I decided to look for some old Murican jobs. I found that old HSS Craftsmans were not hard to find, and they didn’t bring much money, so I sniped a set of 12 on Ebay. They will do unless and until I decide I need something else.

I also ordered a Supernova chuck. This is the biggest expenditure, by far. It was $175. That hurts a little, but consider the cost of a good metal lathe chuck that isn’t a Chinese compromise.

The wood chuck (woodchuck?) is probably Chinese, too, but I’m pretty sure that, unlike the Chinese metal lathe chuck, it’s not a compromise. It’s what a real lathe guy would use.

Anyway, for maybe $400, I should be totally tooled up, apart from minor elective doodads. That’s not bad at all.

I don’t plan to get heavily into this. I just want enough junk to do whatever little jobs come up. And I might do a little artistic turning. I may join the herd of eccentric garbage pile thieves. I already scoped out a pile of sea grape wood in front of a vacant house.

You can use a wood lathe to turn stone. How cool is that?

Here’s a guy whose work I really like. Don’t watch the video if you are a man, unless you’re immune to temptation. You might find yourself on Ebay in a day or two.

Wood lathes sell cheap on Craigslist all the time. Not trying to pressure you or anything. You know you want one.

I’ll post an update if I ever get this working. Something might happen as early as tomorrow.

Con-Fusion 360

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Behold my Box

I got some comments on the post about CAD problems, so I am here to tell about my progress.

The basic problem was that I had a good CAD program, a good CAM program, and no way to move files from one to the other. Alibre Design 2012, my CAD program, has a built-in upgrade incentive: you can’t use the files for anything. The formats will not export to CAM. My other CAD/CAM program, Dolphin, apparently has a CAD module which people consider nearly worthless. This is like having a jet with a blind pilot and a navigator with no tongue.

I went to the forums and got two suggestions: Onshape and Fusion 360. These programs are free.

When I checked the programs out, I learned some things, and I ruled Onshape out pretty quickly. Both programs have cloud storage. I do not like “the cloud.” There is no cloud. There are only servers, and if your stuff is in “the cloud,” that means it’s on someone else’s server, and that person, not you, controls it.

If you want to work on your own, without involving the cloud, you are working “offline.” Onshape does not support offline work.

If you work for a big company, and you have a T1 connection at work, or whatever kind of connection it is that they have now, and your Internet connection never goes down, AND you don’t mind having no privacy and no control over your data, then Onshare is probably great. On the other hand, if you live in South Florida, and the Internet goes out every time it rains, and you might want to design things without effectively submitting them to DHS for approval every time you work, then maybe Onshare is not for you.

I’m sure DHS can see anything it wants in my PC right now, but the idea of simply giving up all pretense of privacy is unsettling. And what if they decide my new pressure cooker design is a bomb, and they decide to confiscate it? What if I decide to design gun parts for 3D printing? What if they decide I’m not allowed to use the Internet because I refuse to eat new Gay Pride Rainbow-Colored Doritos (a real product)?

I just don’t like it. I don’t like the cloud.

I downloaded Fusion 360 and tried it out. It appears to be pretty good. So far it’s more intuitive than Alibre, and at $0, it’s cheaper by $400. It supposedly has CAM as well as CAD, but all I’ve done is draw a box with a hole in it, so I couldn’t tell you anything about that.

Fusion 360 is made by Autodesk, and it’s absolutely free, with all the bells and whistles, unless you start making money with it. Even then, you have to make $100,000 before they start charging you. I think I’m safe.

When you make a design, you can export it and put it on your PC, and you can use the program without an Internet connection. The files you create can be used by other programs, so you’re not an orphan if you somehow lose the use of Fusion 360.

I hate to show off and make people feel inferior, but here is the box I made. That only took like 3 hours.

09 17 15 fusion 360 box Capture

A couple of commenters suggesting Draftsight. I’m sure it’s wonderful. I can only master one CAD/CAM program per day, but I will try to look it over.

The people at Dolphin seem very nice, but I am not yet seeing the value of their program. Perhaps I’m wrong.

I will update if I get anywhere with this. Right now I have to go arm the pressure cooker and smoke some Cuban cigars.

Oh, wait. Those are legal now, right?


Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

I Should Have Taken up Knitting

I’m having fun today. And by “having fun,” I mean, “pulling my hair out and fantasizing about beating software engineers with a two-by-six.”

I have been trying to get up to speed on CAD and CAM, and it has not gone well.

A long time back, I bought Alibre Design, which is a modest CAD program. The interface is nice, and the learning curve is not terrible. They offered it for a low price, like a hundred bucks. I forget.

I learned how to draw parts, and then later I made a CNC lathe. And I found out that Alibre Design does not produce drawings that can be used for CNC.

You can imagine how crazy that is. We are in the midst of a CNC/”Making” revolution, and the primary reason for the existence of CAD is to tell machines how to make stuff. Creating a CAD program which doesn’t work with CNC is like creating a bladder with no openings in it. It is a recipe for suffering.

Last year I went crazy and bought Dolphin CAD and CAM. This is a set of programs that will take you all the way to the lathe or mill, pretty much. And because they have a special module for lathes, I figured it was the way to go. And the price was merely exorbitant, not astronomical. A lot of CAD and CAM programs have four-digit price tags, which is why people torture themselves with open source crap that takes ten years to learn. Dolphin was three digits.

I did not realize how annoying Dolphin’s CAD interface was. Alibre has 2D and 3D in the same window. You draw a part in 2D, and then you view it and rotate it, easily, in 3D. Dolphin is just 2D, unless I missed something. It’s not that easy, looking at a 2D drawing and visualizing a 3D product, especially if you can’t draw more than one side of the part.

As far as I can tell–and I may be wrong–Dolphin forces you to make a different drawing for each side of a part. Imagine doing that for a complex part. Highly aggravating.

Alibre only exports drawings in AD_PRT and STL format, and these formats are dead ends. I found a way to convert STL to DXF using a program called Blender, and you can import DXF into Dolphin. I’ll show you why that was a waste of time.

First, an Alibre part I drew.

stepper mount Capture

Now the drawing that came out when I exported to Dolphin.

stepper mount dolphin CAD abortion Capture

That’s all you get. That side. The other dimensions are gone.

I had to call Geomagic (the Alibre people) today about a licensing problem, and–this will shock you–they wanted to sell me new software! Yes, I was amazed, too. I asked them about the crazy format problem, and the lady said they used to have a program add-on that allowed file conversion, but it was “no longer available,” meaning, “We do not want to give it to you.” Great. I never heard about it.

She said the latest Geomagic Design (successor to my program) was only $400. Yes, because to me, $400 is like three cents is to ordinary mortals. It means nothing to me. I scoff at it. But I let her send me a download link so I could look at it.

I fired it up, converted the drawing to a format Dolphin likes, and imported it into Dolphin Partmaster 3D.

Again, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I think PM3D is useless for CAD. I could not find any CAD tools in the program. I believe all it does is import files, let you view them, and export them. I opened the part file, and PM3D allowed me to export 2D drawings from it. I chose a view that would work for a lathe, and I sent it to Partmaster CAD, which is the 2D program. Here is what I got:

dolphin CAD stepper mount 2D Capture

That is actually useful. I would have to trim it a little, because you’re not supposed to use both sides of a lathe profile in a CNC program. After all, the lathe only makes one cut, and it affects the entire surface of the round part. But it would work. I think.

Now I’m highly annoyed, but at least I can see a way out of this mess.

I don’t know what to do, but one thing is for sure: for the 15-day duration of the trial period, I will be using Geomagic to export everything in sight. Maybe I can find a cheaper solution before the time runs out. That would be nice.

If I can get this working, I’ll put the CNC lathe on its own cart and see if I can actually use it once in a while. That would be great.

After I give in and buy the new program–probably 10 minutes later–someone will tell me about a free program which does the same thing.

That can’t be helped.

Shelf Actualization

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

I am Lathe to Complain

I feel like I need to put up a picture. I am finally almost done with the lathe shelf. Here it is.

09 07 15 lathe shelf on lathe still needs touchup

Don’t ask me why, but the camera picks up imperfections that are barely visible to the naked eye and makes them look huge. If you were here in person, you would think the shelf looked pretty good. Or at least you would say that, while backing away from me slowly. If you were smart.

Someone suggested there would be a problem changing chucks, because the key that turns the cams is obstructed. This is the one thing I didn’t think about. The one thing I didn’t think about that I know about as of today. But it turns out the key has enough freedom to open and close the pins, so I’m good. I can’t change the headstock oil without removing the shelf, but I knew that going in.

Fitting the floor tile was interesting. I learned that the upright parts of the shelf are not totally straight. Or the sides of the tiles were not totally straight. One or the other. I trimmed the tiles using a #4 hand plane. It works great.

Another interesting thing to be aware of, if you ever try to lay tile or anything else in a corner: you have to round off the corner of whatever you’re installing. The inside corners on the shelf are not sharp, but outside corners of things can be very sharp indeed, and they protrude and cause problems. In this case they would have lifted the corners of the tile up.

I am not totally happy with the adhesive that came stuck to the tiles. The wood under the tile is bare, so you would expect a good hold, but in some places it seems to want to rise up. I may have to look into an additional glue.

This will be great. It will get a lot of crap off of the floor and the table saw extension, and it will keep things where I can find them in a hurry. Notice the Allen wrenches. I drilled deep holes into the side of the shelf, just big enough for the two wrenches I use most. I may add new doodads to hold tools such as chuck keys. That would be helpful.

Some day I may sand the shelf down and improve the finish, but right now I have to get on with my life. I can’t dedicate another week to this thing. I still hate painting. I don’t know how anyone manages to do it right. I can sort of handle a spray gun, but brushes are beyond my comprehension.

Home Depot never has fasteners stocked or sorted correctly, so I could not get M8-1.25 x 65mm bolts to hold the shelf down. I had to buy 70mm bolts and grind them down with the bench grinder. Annoying. I had to modify fender washers for the bolts on the left side so they would not bang against the side cover. I made them D-shaped using the belt grinder, which is one of the three or four greatest tools in the universe.

Now I have to make a rolling cabinet for the CNC lathe. After that, I may pick up a few items and try woodturning.

I leave you with a clip from Tiny Trailer Workshop. If you don’t love this, you must not have a Y-chromosome.


pinocchio seed gift wife shoes

Shelf Improvement

Saturday, September 5th, 2015

Painting Isn’t for Everyone

I am sitting here waiting for paint to dry.

I have been struggling to get the garage workshop working, as you know if you keep up with the blog. I believe it’s a metaphor for my own inner transformation.

When you get involved with tools, you have to accept a bitter truth: before you can use the tools to do stuff to other things, you have to use tools to work on your tools to get them ready.

I guess it sounds discouraging, but there is no way around it.

There are a number of things you can buy at the hardware store and then use without preparation, but it’s surprising how many things don’t work until you fix them up.

Consider chisels. You can buy a set of perfectly good ones today at Home Depot, but they won’t be sharp enough to use. Also, Home Depot doesn’t sell the tools you will need to sharpen them. Can you believe that? What could be simpler than a chisel? You would think they would be plug-and-play.

To sharpen a chisel, you need some kind of abrasive tool, and you need at least three levels of grit. You can use a bench grinder to do the rough sharpening, if you’re highly skilled. Then you have to go to a water stone or a diamond stone. Then you have to go to a stone with a grit rating somewhere above 4000.

In order for a Home Depot chisel to be considered ready to use, it has to be able to pop tiny hairs off of you, just like a razor.

I don’t know why Home Depot doesn’t sell decent sharpening tools. Probably because the average chisel user does very crude work.

I have lots of tools, but I haven’t been able to use them as much as I wanted to, because I didn’t prepare them or myself. So now I’m working on it.

On a spiritual level, I’m doing the same thing to myself.

People love to say that Jesus said, “Judge not,” meaning, “Never criticize anything anyone else does.” That’s not true. What he really said was that we should judge ourselves first, and he made it clear that once we did that, we were supposed to judge others so they could benefit from our advice. He didn’t say we should take the logs out of our own eyes and then go home. He said that when we took the logs out of our own eyes, we would then be able to help others take the splinters out of their eyes.

When you beg God for correction and humility, you’re taking the logs out of your eyes.

You shouldn’t expect things to go all that well until you begin accepting correction. Before God straightens you out, you will be led by the flesh, not the Spirit. You will not want to do God’s will. You’ll want to do whatever Satan tells your flesh to do. You will not have the spiritual fruit of self-control. So God will not have much interest in helping you. It would be enablement.

As you accept correction, the spirits that have controlled you your entire life will lose their power, and the Holy Spirit will gain ground inside you. Then you’ll start to have strength and success, because you’ll be doing things God supports.

Prayer in tongues is a constant flow of correction, so it’s vital. We are surrounded by stupid voices all day, every day. Prayer in tongues is God’s answer to that.

One of my shop problems is a lack of provision for lathe tool storage. I have a bunch of heavy lathe tool holders, plus two huge chucks. I also have Allen wrenches and other junk. I need to have this stuff near the lathe, and I need it to be handy, but tossing it on top of the headstock and dumping it on the table saw extension have turned out to be poor solutions to the problem.

I knew that other people had created extended wooden shelves to enlarge the tops of their headstocks. I decided to create a box with a shelf on top. The box would hold whichever chuck I was not using, and tools would go on the top shelf.

You can’t imagine the nightmare that began when I started work on this.

First of all, the thing needed to be about 17″ long in the shortest dimension. Trees are very skinny these days, so you can’t just walk into a store and ask for a board 3/4″ thick and 17″ or more wide. You have to use plywood, which looks crappy, or you have to make your own boards. Like an idiot, I chose the latter route.

To make a wide board, you have to take two narrow boards and glue them together side by side. This is more complicated than it sounds. You have to use a jointer on the edges that mate. Then you have to use a hand plane to put slight indentations on those edges, to create a spring joint.

A spring joint is what you get when you put glue on two concave surfaces and clamp them together forcefully so they touch. You remove a few thousandths of an inch from the edges of two boards before you glue them up. You can’t even see the concavity.

When I made my first board, I did not understand the purpose of spring joints, but now I get it. If you have two boards that aren’t concave, when you push them together, you may get a gap at one or both ends. It will be a tiny gap, but it will show up when you sand and paint the wood. If you make a spring joint, the boards will touch at the ends, so you won’t get gaps there.

It took me days to make enough boards for the shelf thing. I guess the reason is that I don’t have a lot of clamps. I would use three long clamps to make a board, and while it set up, I would be idle, because I couldn’t clamp a second board together.

Once the boards were made, I had to use planes and a scraper to get rid of the microscopic lines where the boards came together. I learned a great deal about plane marks.

When the boards were made, I had to use the table saw to cut them to size, and then I had to use a shooting board and a plane to make them truly square. In the process, I found out that my Incra table saw miter gauge was not square, so I had to fix that.

After all of that, I had to do some routing. I needed tongues and dadoes to fasten the boards together. My mistakes drove me nuts.

For one thing, a router bit in a router table will push wood away from your router fence if you push the wood from left to right. I did not know that. I thought that if I used a little force to hold the wood against the fence, I would be fine. That was totally wrong. The boards would move away from the fence a sixteenth or so, opening up the dadoes. It was infuriating.

Thank God, I was making the dadoes narrower than the boards that went in them. This makes the joints harder to see. That meant the big router gouges were covered when the boards went into the dadoes. But it was still annoying.

I also learned that you have to plan the way the grain of your boards runs when you design your piece. If you have end grain against long grain, you can’t glue it, because the end grain will suck up all the glue. It’s okay for joints that don’t receive stress, but other joints will require some sort of joinery, such as dadoes, to provide new gluing surfaces where long grain meets long grain.

I learned that soft wood is horrible. It’s harder to work than hardwood.

If you use a chisel on hardwood, it will cut it cleanly. If you use a chisel on softwood, going across the grain, the wood may compress and tear instead of cutting. It’s like using a bread knife to cut a stack of Kleenex.

If you use a router bit in hardwood, it leaves a clean edge behind. In softwood, you may get a furry edge that needs to be sanded a lot.

Scrapers, which are incredibly useful, don’t work very well on softwood. That’s annoying, because they’re great for cleaning up glue lines and erasing plane scratches.

You also have to be careful about making grooves, slots, and dadoes in softwood, because if you get too close to the edge of a board, you will have a very thin wall of softwood on the outboard side, and it won’t support your tongue very well. Also, the router may kick the wood completely out when you’re making the dado.

I learned that poplar is stupid.

Poplar is a hardwood, but it’s not hard. It’s not a softwood, but it’s a soft wood. It’s about like pine in its consistency. I used some in the shelf because I thought it was the cheapest hard wood available, but it turned out to be a bad buy. It’s more expensive than pine, and it’s actually softer than the better pine grades. It’s very ugly, so it has to be painted. And it has all the problems pine has when you start trying to shape it.

I’m not sure what poplar is good for, but you can get clear pine for the same price, and it looks better.

It took me forever to get the shelf together, and then I had to deal with painting it. That’s where I am right now.

I wanted to use a tough blue paint that would shed oil. I decided to go with oil-based Rust-Oleum. I really wanted to do it right. But it looks pretty bad right now.

First of all, even though the primer I used is supposed to work fine with oil-based paint, there are little places where the paint just does not want to stick. I’m going to have to give it like 10 coats in those areas. Second, this paint is the farthest thing from self-leveling. It leaves huge ripples behind, and sanding doesn’t seem to budge them. Third, it drips like crazy.

I’ve also had problems trying to get up to speed with the art of painting, itself.

I’ve never been able to get a grip on cleaning brushes. I’ve generally thrown them out. The paint always goes way up under the ferrule, and you can never get all of it out. It takes a huge amount of thinner to clean a brush, and it’s a pain to deal with.

I got some instruction. It turns out you’re supposed to prepare a brush for painting by soaking it in mineral spirits. This goes up under the ferrule and takes the space paint would otherwise occupy. It will keep the paint from going up there and hardening. I can’t believe I got this old and didn’t know that. No one told me! And you can look at websites all day and never see this information.

I found a video that explained it, but the guy in the video took the brush straight from the mineral spirits to a container of varnish and started painting. I had to ask about that. Obviously, it’s wrong, because the thinner on the brush will thin the paint you’re trying to apply. So you have to get the excess thinner off the bristles. Something he should have mentioned, right?

No wonder people consider brushes disposable.

I have been working on the paint for days, and it’s still not done. I finally decided to settle for a garage-grade finish. Maybe once the shop is working properly, I can make a new shelf. But I have to get this thing done and use it, or I will lose my mind.

I would really like to do things right, but I’m going to have to start accepting my limitations. Once in a while, “okay” will have to be an acceptable substitute for “perfect but unattainable.”

09 01 15 lathe shelf ready for paint

In other news, my new old church is getting weirder.

They have a prayer line. I used to be part of the prayer team. They’re supposed to call a conference line three times a week and pray for the church and so on.

I quit the team months ago. I felt like they were praying in an ineffective way, without solid guidance from the Holy Spirit. You’re not supposed to pray for two seconds for everyone on earth. You’re supposed to let the Holy Spirit choose your battles. You pray for the things he tells you to pray for, the way he wants you to do it. They were taking kind of a shotgun approach. Also, most people weren’t showing up. Usually there were only three people on the line. The pastors and the “house prophet” didn’t participate regularly, which makes you wonder what the pastors were being paid to do.

A lot of people wonder what the pastors are being paid to do. The impression many people have is that during the week they do absolutely nothing but go to the spa, travel, and visit restaurants.

I didn’t say anything critical when I left the prayer line. I just quit and said I felt like I should be doing something else.

I have a friend from the Panhandle, and she has been very good to the church. Although she wasn’t a member, she helped them financially and drove down to visit from time to time, and she was a hard core prayer line warrior.

Last week, the pastor’s wife changed the prayer line number and didn’t give it to her. Something about wanting to confine participation to church members. To be clear, she was deliberately cut out.

You have to realize, this woman was not my puppet. She wasn’t calling the prayer line and telling them how bad the pastors were for rejecting me. She was just praying. But now she’s out.

They cut another person out. She’s a young woman with some type of mental retardation. I don’t know what the proper name is. It’s not Down Syndrome. She’s very sweet, and she is a very sincere Christian. She has visions. She sees angels. She wanted to be on the church’s dance team, but they wouldn’t allow her to perform. I don’t know why. It’s not the Bolshoi Ballet. It should not be hard to qualify. If you’re not good enough to dance for God, at a tiny church which is currently failing, where, exactly, can you expect to be accepted? You can’t shoot any lower.

She and her mother eventually left the church. But the young woman continued with the prayer team. Sometimes she was one of only two people who called in. Now she’s out!

How a preacher can want FEWER people to pray for a church is beyond me. That’s a new one in my experience. The church is sinking. They are losing dedicated people. Their planned moves to bigger buildings got squashed. The air conditioning in the tiny room where they meet is out, and knowing the landlords, it may be another two weeks before it works again. It appears that their orphanage in Haiti has gone nowhere. The prayer team is nearly gone. Is this really the time to ramp up the ostracism?

I don’t know what to think about it, but I’m glad I got pulled out.

My plan for my own life is to keep asking for correction. It’s working beautifully. It makes life easier, except for painting. It’s what we all need. It’s what Jesus died for.

I can’t do anything for people who are convinced they’re already perfect. If God’s methods of improving people involved grabbing them against their will, opening them up, and replacing parts, it would be easy to help others, but unfortunately, most of it relies on their willingness to listen.

As for me and the people close to me, we keep getting new revelation, and things keep improving. I feel better. I have more success. I worry less. Doors are opening so I can get out of Miami.

I have learned that when there is an area where I fail consistently, God is trying to teach me a lesson, and when I finally learn it, he will let me move forward and succeed. This is what happened to the Hebrews under Moses. They walked in circles and died in the desert, but the ones who had not rejected God’s counsel were allowed into the Promised Land.

I still have no interest in joining a new church. Maybe some day.

If I get this crazy shelf put together, I’ll put up a photo. I can’t wait to see it on top of the lathe, with all my junk stuffed into it.