Friday
Nov042016

Snow Blower

So, Heather and I both … separately … were ready to get a Snow Blower.

Neither of us wants a repeat of last year.

And here in Virginia this hasn’t exactly been unusual in recent memory.

 First thing to know.

I now think long and hard before adding an internal combustion engine to my maintenance routines. And when I do, I try hard not to go cheap.
It took a lot of expensive experience to conclude; I like to use (abuse) engines. I don’t enjoy maintaining them.
Knowing that.
Last year, while propped up and nursing my complaining back, I spent a lot of time researching snow blowers with the intent of buying only one in my lifetime.
I decided to spend about $800 on a Kohler come summer time (hoping to get $1000 worth of snow blower). I never quite got to it and I hadn’t intended to buy the little riding mower at all. So … when Heather and I realized that we both wanted to get a something before we wish we had. I didn’t want to spend anywhere near $800 dollars.
So, start the research over knowing I won’t like anything I look at. YouTube, Amazon, Blogs, etc etc. Here is what I learned first. At this price range. There is no way to get a review that will ACUTALLY help you decide. Nothing of value anyway. I ended up decided by taking what I learned about much higher end snow blowers and what makes them different. Each low-end/low-cost snow blower in some way attempts to emulate a high-end feature. So I ranked the ones I thought were most important and based my decision on the way it looks like the low price unit tried to mimic it.
In the end, my expectations are very low. So I decide to only spend as much as I was perfectly happy expending for a single bad snow storm. Until I actually use this thing, I won’t suggest anyone spend less than $500 on a gas power unit without assuming it will die in the first season, or only last one bad storm.
Maybe I’ll feel different after really using it.
Here is what we bought.
I paid $169.99 and it is now on sale for $135.99
Shipping was free with my Prime Membership
The most valuable thing I learned in trying to decide what to purchase was that the quality of the cord is at least as important as the snow blower and that you CANNOT purchase an acceptable quality cord from your local Big Box store.
Here is the cord I ended up buying. They also come in 25 ft and 50 ft for quite a bit less.
I paid $78.15.
The only assembly required was to unfold the handles and put a handle in place.
It came with a tool for clearing the chute.
I’ll certainly update the blog the first chance I get to use it.

 

Saturday
Oct012016

I think I finally stumbled upon THE reason to own a 3D Printer.

I have a really cool shop vac. The RIGID SmartCart.

It fits under my workbench in a usable position. All the tools store nicely in drawers on the unit itself. The dust bin and filter come out in a separate bin that I can then open and empty outside without making a mess.

The hose is very high quality and so far I am happy with the vaccuum.

Dust collection systems in the United States come in two sizes. 4 inch and 2 1/2 inch hoses. There should be nothng else. But, low and behold. Nothing seems to be standard.

I can never find the right adapter to get this hose to fit anything. I’m pretty sure it is a standard 2 1/2 on the vaccuum side, but the tool side of the hose appears to be metric or something.

Inside Diameter - rough 1 1/2 inch or accurate 37.6 mm

Outside Diameter - rough 1 3/4 inch or accurate 45mm

So far I think I am $40 to $60 (USD) deep in adapters and accessories that don’t fit. That, plus the many other random uses and fun factor are getting close to the cost of a small 3D printer.

I have decided a small one is fine. For big work I’d rather have a CNC or even better the Wazer (Desktop Waterjet Cutter). Adapters, Arduino and Raspberry Pi project cases and mod boxes seem to be some of the best use cases for a 3D printer.

So, here is my RIDGID SmartCart ShopVac setup in it’s stored location.

_________________________________________________________

My SmartCart under the workbench. It sits next to the trashcan. I have a power extension reel attached to the handle so that the cable rolls up nicely as I roll the cart under the bench.

With it sitting here in it’s typical storage location I can hook the hose right to the front and turn it on to use it without pulling it out. Also, because the collection tank and filter are in that bottom drawer. I can also empty it without removing it.

To the right is what I have so far of my vaccuum dust pan. They make wider ones with 4” outlets, but I was concerned about using such a big one on a shop vac. So instead I picked up a router dust collector and a 2 1/2” hard vaccuum extension hose.

I do plan to put a blast gate on this and run a hose so that I don’t have to pull the one out of the vaccuums drawer for this use. I also want an aux 2 1/2” port for connecting a wand with handle on a flexible hose. That will also get a blast gate.

Here is the cart pulled out and the accessory drawer and hose drawer open.

 

The top also flips up making it easier to remove and stow the hose.

I’ll put up more when I get pieces that work for the vaccuum hoses and adapters.

               - PinderNET

Saturday
Oct012016

Could the Washington DC metro area be a hidden east coast maker mecca?

What do you think of when you think of the Washington D.C. Metro area?

  • U.S. Federal Government (yep … it’s big and it’s all here - 38% of people in DC say they work for the Federal Government)
  • Beltway Bandits (the private sector portion of the Acedemic-Military-Industrial complex)
  • Pentagon (the public sector portion of the Acedemic-Military-Industrial complex; 1% of Ameicans are employeed by the U.S. Military which is the single largest employer in the world)
  • Foreigners and Transients (not just the diplomats; only a small portion of the residents are here for long, an even smaller portion grew up in the area)
  • Telecoms and Data Centers (every major American telecommunications company is either headquartered or maintains a campus here)
  • Spook Central (you only “see” a small percentage of the three letter agency presence)
  • Biotech and Healthcare (there is a whole area around DC, Bethesda and Rockville dedicated to the National Institue of Health (NIH) and it spills all over into Northern Virginia as well).
  • Traffic (I’ve driven all over the United States, L.A. is bad, Atlanta is just stupid, Chicago is crowded … the beltway (Interstate 495 circle around Washington DC) is just plain dangerous).

Yep. All that is true.

Here are a few other things that are true … 

  • High cost of living (one of the highest in the US, probably THE highest outside of urban areas) … but the salaries are also high.
  • Very well educated population; both academic and military. Because D.C. is mostly administrative and political in nature (even the military, tech and manufacturing presence is usually centered around management). White collar work probably outnumbers blue collar work by 4:1 here. Only service and hospitality is probably larger.
  • High stress work. D.C. is an east coast city … hence, a lazy ass here would be considered a work-a-holic on the west coast. Plus, a significant portion of the population can’t even discuss their work over the dinner table.
  • Very easy access to nature Loudoun County, VA … Central Virginia … Appalachian Trail … Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay
  • History is all around in one of the oldest areas of our country.

Add all of that up and you get a good percentage of the population with interesting hobbies and backgrounds that often have the disposable income to really invest in those hobbies.

Why then do places like San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and Los Angelos get all the maker spaces and attention?

Is Bohemian New York the only place on the east coast with creative people producing work?

Oh course not.

I think I will try and put together a campaign to visit shops and spaces and people all around this diverse area and show off their projects, techniques, tools and shops.

Maybe we can pull together a directory of East Coast makers and suppliers.

So … calling all 

 

  • Woodworkers
  • Blacksmith
  • Machinist
  • Welders
  • Mechanics
  • Carvers
  • Makers
  • Electronics Hobbiest
  • Model Makers
  • UAV Builders
  • R/C Builders
  • Auto mechanics
  • Painters and Custom Bodyshops
  • Tool Manufacturers
  • Furniture Makers
  • Farmers
  • Fabricators
  • Ferriers
  • Fletchers and Bowers
  • Leatherworkers
  • Recreationist
  • Performers
  • Artisans

 

Contact me with your …

 

  • ideas
  • list of favorite suppliers (website, what kind of materials, area, etc)
  • contact information for interesting people/artisans
  • shops of some particular interest, exceptional value or quality workmanship
  • contact information for private workshops of interest
  • rare, intersting or unusual hobbies

 

Stay tuned for developments.

              - PinderNET

Monday
Sep192016

Blast Cabinet

During lunch today I went by Harbor Freight and picked up a blast cabinet and some media to use on the tool restorations.

I could have really used one when I was stripping and restoring the motor, grinder and air compressor.

Anyway, it looks like the kind of fun.

Harbor Freight, the company we love to hate. They are the proof that a market exist. Can someone please step up and compete with a better quality line of products, yet still carry tools for someone other than the home owner or hobbiest.

I live in the suburbs of Washington D.C. … so there is no shortage of options when it comes to places to spend money. There are three Harbor Freight retail stores within 45 minutes of me (depending on traffic).

In the last month or so I have visited all three. I must say that the one in Sterling, VA (middle of the tech corridor) is hands down the best. It is clean, well stocked, and the staff was helpful. I won’t say the staff was difficult at the other two stores, but far from helpful and the stoers and merchandise looked like crap.

Before I detail the poor quality of the Blast Cabinet I purchased, I must preface this with the following …

I am a semi-satisfied Harbor Freight customer overall.

I couldn’t just run by Home Depot or Lowes and pick up a Blast Cabinet on my lunch hour. Lowes doesn’t even carry anything that cost less than a thousand dollars. Home Depot got close in price (and probably the same low quality) but no store actually stocks them.

I am also FULLY aware that when I by a Central Pmeumatic (Harbor Freight house brand) tool; ninety-nine percent (99%) of the time I am buying the cheapest productin cost possible for a barely adequate tool.

Harbor Freight retail stores stock two kinds of Blast Cabinets and it basically comes down to stand or no stand. The one with the stand is slightly bigger and comes with an internal light ($199 USD). The floor of the cabinet looks better as well (maybe). It is a bigger, but mostly in media capacity, the work area doesn’t seem much different between the two.

The smaller has no legs and a flat bottom. The media cone is under the work area and smaller. It has no worklight ($119 USD).

I went with the smaller. Not only is it nearly half the cost, it probably fits my expected usage pattern better.

When I use the cabinet, I’ll probably be using it alot. When I am not using the cabinet, it will just be sitting gathering dust. A smaller overall storage size seems like a good trade off for needing to pull out saw horses to use it.

This one has about a 10 pound media capacity and I think the bigger took a full 25 pund bag. Also I don’t think my 5 gal Home Depot bucket would have fit under the media outlet on the one with the stand. It will certainly fit under the saw horses.

So really, nearly $100 (USD) for a work light didn’t seem like a good buy :)

I also purchased a 25 pound box of Black Aluminum Oxide (70 grit) and a 25 pound box of Glass Bead (80 grit) to use on the bandsaw and Shopsmith. Somewhere around $60 (USD)

I also grabbed a magnetic on a stick for finding the Forstner bit I lost in the yard and a set of air tool quick disconnects to replace the ones I stole off my older air tools for the new Freeman nail guns.

So we are trying to squeeze the Blast Cabinet into my truck and I see that one corner of the cabinet has been all smashed to hell. Of course, it is either this one, the floor unit (no thanks) or go to another store. I got 10% off. So, the cabinet was just a hair over $100 (USD).

Half what I would have had to pay Home Depot to ship a unit that probably would have been just as poor a build. Oh … the poor build quality … I haven’t gotten to that yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 —- ISSUES —-

 Smashed Corner

 

 

 

Hinge Mounted Approx 1/4 inch off between Top and Bottom

 

 

 

Bent Door Frame on Interior (probably from closing the poorly mounted door the first time)

 

Warped and Bent Frame Around Glass - Leaving HUGE Gap

 

Check out the video of Heather playing with the new toy.

She literally came running down the stairs when she heard the air compressor start so she could see it working.

         - PinderNET

 

 

Sunday
Sep182016

Craigslist Bandsaw

I went out this morning to look at the 12” Craftsman Bandsaw I found on Craigslist earlier.

It is pretty rusted, but runs. The motor looked pretty bad at first, but after having looked closer, it just needs a new coat of paint and a new power cord.

He was asking $65, I gave him $60 (USD).

Here are the before pictures …