Video: TIG Brazing – Cast Iron Handplane Repair

I’m a big fan of The Accidental Woodworker, a blog where amateur woodworker Ralph writes daily about his growth as a woodworker. One of his interests includes restoring old handplanes. He does a great job bringing them back to looking like new, and performing even better. So when he recently posted about his difficulties locating someone to repair a cracked frame on a transitional plane he had purchased, I reached out to see if he would be interested in letting a total n00b give it a try.

He was, and I did. Which was rather trusting on his part, since I’ve never done this before. But it was a great excuse to try out TIG brazing, something I’ve had on my list of techniques to learn for quite some time.

Cast iron is notoriously difficult to work with, and as you’ll see in the video, it definitely gave me a bit of trouble. But we got there in the end. I’ve already sent the plane back to Ralph, and I’m looking forward to seeing it fully restored.

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Video: What’s On the Bench January 2022

I don’t record everything I do in the shop. For one thing, it makes everything take three times as long. But I thought maybe it would be interesting to people to at least see what other things I’ve been working on, as well as giving me something I can put out while I work on some longer videos.

Lately much of my shop time has gone into two things: adding a programmable controller to the kiln I picked up cheap, and of course continuing the office renovation. So here’s a quick video off those, along with a quick peek at one of my newer toys!

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Podcast Episode 011 – Marshall Thompson

My guest on this episode is Marshall Thompson, a friend, former co-worker from my Cognitect days, and fellow maker and learner. He is currently employed by the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, where, as the name implies, he pursues no less lofty a goal than curing cancer.

This being Get Smarter and Make Stuff, we did not limit ourselves to talk of curing cancer, but bounced around to woodworking with our kids, Tool Night with friends, and the purpose and perils of academic research and publishing, among other things.

As I note at the beginning of the episode, we recorded at a party where there was rather a lot of background noise, and to top that off my microphone was acting up. So if you’re particularly sensitive to that kind of thing, you might want to skip this one. I promise I’ll do better next time. That said, you’d miss out on a really interesting conversation with a fascinating guest, so maybe don’t skip it after all. 🙂

Listen to the podcast on this page or download it here. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or via RSS.

A desk Marshall’s friend Jeff made for his daughter’s second grade classroom.

Video: Water Heater Maintenance

Recently, one of my coworkers had a water heater that failed. It was twenty years old, so he was lucky that it lasted as long as it did, but it reminded me of something that I wish someone had told me when I first bought a house: you should at least partially drain your water heater once a year, to get the sediment out.

I don’t think this is particularly common knowledge, and we have a home improvement channel on Slack at work, so I posted this little video there in case anyone else didn’t know about it. But I figured maybe I’d post it here as well. If you already knew about this, great! Make sure you tell your friends and family that might not. If you didn’t, well, hopefully you can see how easy it is, and it may save you a few years of life on your water heater. In any event, enjoy!

Video: Two-Part Silicone Alternatives, Part 3

Or, as I like to call it, “A crazy person tries to make molds with silicone caulk.” But I think I actually got it to work! The secret was to use injection wax, which for reasons I have not bothered to find out, hardens better and faster than the other waxes I have tried.

This approach is still not quite as good as the two-part stuff, but it is darn close as long as you use the mold shortly after making it. They will still shrink A LOT as they cure completely.

I’ve got one more avenue to pursue on this Crazy Quest, which is to see if gelatin-based molds will work. Alumalite Amazing Remelt is one such material, but it can actually be made very cheaply and easily at home. More about that in a future video, though.

Anyway, if you’ve followed the series this far, good on you. 🙂

Podcast Episode 010 – James Avery

It was my great pleasure to sit down (virtually) with James Avery and talk about learning and making. And specifically about the huge project we both spend the majority of our time working on together: growing Kevel (formerly Adzerk), the company we both work for.

James is more than just an employee, though: he is the founder, and had a host of interesting things to say about the things he has learned and his approach to leadership. I have always been impressed with him, and after our conversation that is only more true. I hope you will enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed having it!

Listen to the podcast on this page or download it here. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or via RSS.

This episode is also available on YouTube. View it there for a transcript and subtitles.

Video: One Hundred Subscriber Special – Shop Update Preview

I was out to dinner with the family a couple of weeks ago, and I told the kids, “Oh hey the YouTube channel has 99 subscribers. One more and maybe I’ll have to figure out some way to mark the occasion.” The 17yo took out her phone and subscribed. “Welp. Guess I’ll figure something out.”

We’re actually well past 100 at the point, but I finally got around to editing and publishing the thing I had in mind: a preview of the extensive shop expansion I’m working on. It will something like triple my space when it’s all done, but it’s a gigantic, mulitstage project involving relocating my office, jackhammering up a floor that’s covered with asbestos tiles, and all manner of disruptions. It’s going to take a long time, but here’s a video showing progress to date and giving some idea of what I plan to do.

If you’ve subscribed, thanks! This is a hobby for me – I’m not trying to make a living off of this or anything – but I find it encouraging that so many people have taken an interest. I’ve enjoyed making videos, even when the editing is a bit of a slog. Just one more thing I can make and get smarter on – a good thing!


Video: Two-part Silicone Alternatives, Part 2

My high school friends and I had a term, “Crazy Quest,” that I think accurately describes my search for an alternative to two-part silicone mold making materials like OOMOO 30. At this point I’ve spent well over a hundred dollars on hardware-store silicone caulk, mineral spirits, and multiple different types of wax, all supposedly motivated by the fact that two-part silicones have a short shelf life and are therefore expensive. Ha.

Anyway, I nearly tossed this latest video. I shot it and edited it, all of which took a long time, and when it was done I was struck by how long it was given that it was mostly failure. But, after thinking about it for a bit, and then seeing James Clough’s “mistakes” video I realized that I was being too precious about the whole thing. Yes, I didn’t succeed in finding the holy grail of a cheap, convenient, high-quality alternative, yet, but hey it’s all a process. And if the video is a bit long? Well, people can watch or not – I’m not making any money off of this channel so what’s the problem?

In short: relax, dude. I’ll do better next time, and hey this is all for fun anyway.

So with all that said, I still hope you enjoy this video, part two of my Silicone Crazy Quest.

Video: Simplifying STL Meshes

I sometimes joke that my hobbies combine only the best of the 17th and 21st centuries. But it’s sort of true – a lot of what I like to do is to move as seamlessly as possible between the virtual world of 3D models and plans and the physical where I deal with metal, wood, plastic, and so forth.

And while Fusion 360 is my weapon of choice for modeling, one thing it does NOT do well right now is deal with high-polygon STLs. It can take minutes to do even simple operations on them, and as often as not I wind up killing the program.

There are, of course, a bunch of tools out there for working with meshes that are better suited than Fusion 360. But I only need them occasionally, so I never remember how to use them. I need something simple that can just make a mesh easier to work with.

Which is exactly what Mesh Simplification does. It’s just a simple web page that you load an STL into, and it makes it smaller by reducing the edge and vertex count, while still doing a good job of maintaining the shape of the object. Because it’s a web page, there’s nothing to install. And it’s super fast – basically instantaneous.

In this video I walk through how to use it as well as the one very small caveat I came across. Hope you find it helpful!