July 24th, 2018

A Bright Idea

I saw this a while ago on one of the woodworking sites and decided that I needed to build one. It is light box with an old fashioned Edison bulb. It is a fairly simple project requiring just one piece of wood, a light socket, a dimmer and a bulb.

I made my light box out of a single piece of red oak. I purchased a 1″ thick board to have a thicker base and then planed the side pieces down to 3/4″. The dimensions are 8 3/4″ wide x 9″ tall x 5 1/2″ deep.

After cutting the base piece down to size, I marked the center of the board and drilled a 1″ hole approximately 3/4″ into the 1″ base. I drilled a 9/32″ hole through the side for the cord to go through. The socket was located on the base in order to pre-drill the mounting holes. I used 1″ screws in the porcelain socket that only protruded 1/4″ into the base so as not to interfere with the wire channel.

Here I slipped the 9/32″ drill bit into the hole for the wire in order to mark the side piece and continue the hole through the side. The box was then glued together using biscuits at the top.

The finished piece with socket and dimmer installed. I used an inline dimmer with a woven cloth covered cord. It can be purchased here: http://a.co/cZ6Hwu2. The socket can be found here: http://r.ebay.com/giCcTj.

The finish is gun stock wood stain and one coat of spray polyurethane.

December 16th, 2017

Kids Workbench

I made this kids workbench as a Christmas present for me niece. I found the plans for it here: fixthisbuildthat.com/diy-kids-workbench-plans/

The bench is 24″ high at the work surface, 17 1/2″ deep and 41 3/4″ tall. It is made out of select pine 1×4 and 2×2 boards with an MDF top, shelf and pegboard. The joinery is all done with pocket screws. The finish is tung oil.

November 1st, 2017

Halloween Zombie Apocalypse

Here is my yard haunt for 2017. I have done a miscellaneous display for the past couple of years but this year I finally came up with a theme. The house was turned into a zombie containment lab with the zombies trying to get out.

My display was somewhat abstract with lighting and sound creating most of the effects. I started putting out props several days leading up to Halloween to tell the story that the house was being transformed/taken over by the zombie containment activities.

The elements:
1. Lighting – Green flood lights in all the windows and 4 DMX controlled LED PARs slowly alternating from yellow to green with the occasional strobe. Leading up to Halloween the green lights in the windows faded on and off slowly to indicate something was building up.

2. Driveway – Lighted signs warning of zombies inside along with a motion activated scoreboard buzzer combined with blinking stage light with radiation symbol gobo.

3. Sidewalk – Motion activated store bought hanging zombie prop and atmosfearfx zombie apocalypse dvd projected in the front window. Also a homemade control panel that appeared to be ripped off the wall was made to flicker via a florescent starter.

4. Front door – An industrial control panel made from plywood and electrical parts (indicator lights, meters, knobs, etc.). When the door bell was rang the store bought electrical box prop mounted on the side of the control panel was triggered along with a strobe light inside the front door.

5. Miscellaneous – Mr. Cool fog machine, a few random severed limbs, ‘caution’ tape, a 50 gallon blue drum, and some other random warning signs.

July 18th, 2017

Wine Themed Silent Auction Items

Here are some items I made for a recent silent auction at a wine tasting held for charity. Some of the items I have made before, others I made for the first time.

The wine rack from a single 1x6x6’ mahogany board from the home center. The interior cubbies are 3.5”. The finish is wood stain and two coats of tung oil.

Info on the Cork trivets is here: https://www.lobstein.org/2013/10/cork-trivet-frame/
Info on the Cork shadow box is here: http://lumberjocks.com/projects/37825
Info on the Wine bottle balancers is here: http://lumberjocks.com/projects/76977

May 29th, 2017

Bookshelf Made From Pine

I recently built a bookshelf for my great room after analyzing the design of various bookshelf projects on the internet. I settled on a simple interlocking board design and adapted the dimensions to fit my space.

The shelf is constructed from a total of 16 1×6 x 8ft select pine boards that were biscuited and edge glued together to make the 5 shelf boards and 3 uprights. The boards were glued together leaving a 3/4″ notch at the appropriate locations to allow the opposing boards to interlock, forming the shelf. Below are the cut dimensions for the pieces that were glued to the long board represented by the total length measurement. The 0.75″ measurements represent the gaps that were left to interlock with the perpendicular board.

Horizontal shelf board (5ea):

Overhang:  12"
Rail 1:  0.75"
Shelf:     23"
Rail 2:  0.75"
Shelf:     23"
Rail 3:  0.75"
Overhang:  12"
Total = 72.25"

Vertical shelf standard (3ea):

Overhang:  12"
Style 1: 0.75"
Shelf 1:   16"
Style 2: 0.75"
Shelf 2:   16"
Style 3: 0.75"
Shelf 3:   16"
Style 4: 0.75"
Shelf 4:   16"
Style 5: 0.75"
Floor:      4"
Total = 83.75"

In the picture below is one of the horizontal shelf boards with the biscuit slots cut, ready to be glued together.

You can never have enough clamps…

The finished boards up for a test fitting prior to painting. I cut 1″ off the front edge of the upright boards to give the shelf less of a boxy look. I also cut a notch at the bottom to allow the shelf to fit around the baseboard when flush with the wall.

The finished shelf with two coats of semi-gloss latex enamel paint.

January 24th, 2017

IKEA Cabinet Modification

IKEA can be intimidating. The store is humongous and the options are seemingly endless. It takes some study to narrow down the options to find what you need. In my case I needed a laundry cabinet above the washing machine. This cabinet will store the detergent and other laundry supplies. While the big box home centers have stocked a plethora of options for oak and white thermofoil/melamine kitchen cabinets, there was a big problem. In test fittings at the store, it became obvious that none of the currently available laundry detergent dispenser jugs will actually fit in a standard 12″ deep upper cabinet.

I thought about custom building a cabinet but it seemed like there should be something commercially available for this purpose. Meet the SEKTION cabinet line from IKEA.

The SEKTION line of cabinets turned out to be exactly what I needed. To start with, SEKTION upper cabinets are all 15″ deep instead of the standard 12″. I my case, I needed a single door upper cabinet. Within this one variation of cabinet, there are 17 different height and width (12″, 15″, 18″, 21″ & 24″) options available. There are also many different choices in door styles available. I ended up choosing a 18″ W x 30″ H cabinet with the very basic white ”Häggeby” door.

After obtaining a pick ticket and paying at the store, I went to the pickup area and got a nice tidy bundle of packages brought out to me on a cart. Since the cabinets are modular, the individual components are picked that make up the finished unit that is desired.

The only issue now is assembling and mounting the cabinet. It turns out there is a small problem that must be overcome. The cabinet system is designed to be mounted on a hanging rail system. To make the installation easier, a metal hanging rail is screwed to the wall studs and the cabinets are hung from it. The only downside to this system is that it holds the cabinets out from the wall slightly. In my case, I decided not to use the hanging rail system for just one cabinet. This required some modifications to the cabinet box as seen below.

To avoid using the hanging rail system, nailer strips needed to be added to the top and bottom of the cabinet box. I used 3/4″ x 1 1/2″ melamine strips to accomplish this. I cut biscuit slots in the strips so the #20 biscuits would align with the groove in the cabinet that was intended to accept the back panel. I then applied a melamine edge banding to the two strips before cutting new grooves in the top to accept the back panel. The biscuits and then glue were then applied to secure the nailer strip to the top and bottom panels of the cabinet.

After the glue dried, the cabinet was assembled per the IKEA instructions (cam locks, cam screws and dowels) after cutting the back panel down to the size needed (26 1/8″) to fit between the newly installed nailing strips.


Below is the completed cabinet with the door installed after screwing it directly to the wall studs through the newly installed nailing strips. It holds all of my laundry supplies quite comfortably.

January 18th, 2017

Customized JAMMA switcher for 2-in-1 light gun arcade

So here is the dilemma… You buy a video game cabinet and then decide that just having only one game in it does not satisfy your inherent need to make it contain more than one game. And what if you cabinet was a ‘gun’ game for which that type of arcade machine is at a distinct disadvantage for using with MAME type emulation? Well there ought to be a way to switch between multiple game PCBs right? Well yes there is, you can get a switcher for just this purpose… But, after implementing such a setup, I don’t recommend it. Read on for more details….


Here is my Lethal Enforcers II arcade machine that I purchased many years ago. Some point after I acquired it, I decided to purchase the PCB for the original Lethal Enforcers arcade machine for which I remember playing so much in the college dorm laundromat. For years I got by just having the 2nd PCB mounted to a tray inside the cabinet and swapping the JAMMA and gun connectors when I wanted to switch games. This was fine if just a little kludgy.

But it just so happens that there are products intended to solve the problem of switching all of the wires in the JAMMA harness between PCBs that sort of work. Here is the one that I purchased:


It seems like it should be a straight forward task to switch between two game PCBs, but it is not. To make wiring a video game cabinet a standard practice so that a different game board could be swapped into a cabinet without changing the wires, the JAMMA (Japan Amusement Machine and Marketing Association) connector was invented. It standardized the pin-out on game PCBs and the associated wiring to components in the arcade cabinet. There any many different types of signals in play on a JAMMA harness. Including:

  1. Power: +5v, +12, -5v (not used by most PCBs) & Ground
  2. Sound: Mono “+” and “-” speaker output
  3. Video: Red, Green, Blue, Sync and Video Ground lines.
  4. Contol Inputs: Joystick (Up, Dn, L, R), Buttons (Shoot, Start), Coin Trigger, etc. [for two players]

In addition to the standard JAMMA harness, this cabinet also has extra connectors for the two optical guns and stereo speakers. So how will this switcher handle that? Not very easily it turns out.

Let’s look at the switcher as it arrived:



The basic theory of operation for this switcher involves using relays and diodes to switch back and forth between the two games when the button on the wireless remote is pressed. The relay on the right of center alternates routing the +12v and +5v power feed between the PCBs. Note that this switcher does not switch the -5v signal between PCBs, instead it leaves those pins unconnected. This is not an issue since most PCBs do not use the -5v power feed. The second relay alternates routing the speaker connection between the PCBs. The remainder of the connections (video and control signals) are tied together from both PCBs to the cabinet JAMMA harness. The two rows of diodes prevent signals from one PCB from from entering the opposing PCB. Since only one game is powered up at a time, the arrangement works. But there is a problem, if you look closely at the spots between the pin connectors, there are spaces for eight diodes that are not installed. Unfortunately these missing diodes were intended to separate the video signals (Red, Green, Blue & Sync). As a consequence, it can be said that this JAMMA switcher fails to work as advertised. Strike one against the idea of easily switching between PCBs in the same cabinet.

On to the modifications! Hint: Lots of relays.


Six DPDT relays to be exact. By using relays, the signals for Video (Red, Green, Blue, Sync), Stereo speakers (L+, L-, R+, R-), and both of the optical guns (trigger and optical sensor) are able to be switched cleanly across both PCBs. The +12v pin going to the PCB #2 JAMMA connector is connected to the coil of all of the relays. So when game #2 is active, all six relays are switched on and the above connections are switched over to PCB #2.

Also note that the +5v and ground wires that power the optical sensors for both guns are not switched through the relays, instead they are connected directly to constant +5v and ground. This arrangement powers the guns’ optical sensors directly from the power supply and not through the switcher. Lastly of note, the video ground pin for both JAMMA PCB connectors were separated from the power supply ground and tied together. So the video ground pins of both PCBs are jointly connected to the monitor and nothing else. After soldering all of the various connections to the original switcher and creating jumper cables for the guns and speaker connections, this monstrosity is now complete. Final score: power, start buttons, service switch and coin triggers are routed through the switcher’s relays and diodes and everything else including video signals, optical gun signals and the stereo speakers are routed through the add on relay board.

Here is the finished product:

Here it is connected to PCB #2 (Original Lethal Enforcers). The two gun connectors are on the left side and the stereo speaker connector is on the right side.

Here is the switcher and relay board installed in the cabinet:


The PCB original to the cabinet (Lethal Enforcers II – The Western) is in the background. The second PCB (Lethal Enforcers I) is in the foreground. The game select button was installed in the front of the cabinet next to the coin door.

Video of the switcher in action:

Final thoughts:

While this was quite a bit of work, the final product does work pretty well in my case. Switching between the two games in my cabinet is seamless. However given the low quality of JAMMA switchers that are still available for sale, I would not recommend purchasing one unless you are prepared to solder on it.

The only small issue that I have with the final product is the monitor. Monitors in these older game cabinets have manual analog controls that need to be adjusted to produce the best picture for the game that was installed in the cabinet. Since only one game was installed at a time, the picture could be properly centered and the brightness and contrast controls set just right (very important on an optical gun game). When switching between two games, the picture settings need to be a compromise between the two. In my case, the brightness setting needed to get reliable gun hits in LE II caused the picture to be somewhat washed out in LE I. But I can live with that. If you are thinking about doing a 6-in-1 light gun cabinet like in the link below, note that it could be very difficult to get a good picture on all six games without having to adjust the monitor every time the game is switched.


Further reading on JAMMA switchers & Light gun games:

December 14th, 2016

Coat hook rails from re-cycled flooring

After putting in some new flooring, I was left with an entire box of off-fall and reject oak floor boards. To start re-cycling them I decided to make some Coat hook rails for the office.


I surmised that they would look good using the same checkerboard end grain effect as I had previously done with a Cutting Board. So I planed down four boards to remove the finish on the top and the grooves on the bottom. I then glued the boards together in a sandwich.



I sliced the sandwich down to rough size with the table saw and then planed it to final thickness. The piece was then cut apart on the miter saw into the individual segments. While it did work out to make one using this technique, it was very difficult clamping all of the small strips of 4 cubes back together evenly before the glue started to set up. It also took a lot of sanding to the get the final piece smoothed out. I opted to make the two smaller rails without the checkerboard effect.


After drilling holes for and gluing in the store bought coat hook pegs, a spray polyurethane finished was applied. I also used pre-made oak buttons to cover the two mounting holes.


November 20th, 2016

DIY LED Christmas tree

Here are two of my DIY Electronic Christmas trees. The first one was made two years ago for an office Christmas decorating contest. I decided to update it this year with a little more modern technology.


First tree:
This is a fiber optic tree with a halogen light and color wheel in the base. I decided on a technology theme using electronic parts that I had on hand by making my own blinking light strands out of red and green LEDs soldered onto cut up ribbon cables. The LEDs are driven by a 555 + 4017 + 2803 IC combo circuit assembled on a breadboard. For those who are not sure what that means… The 555 is a general purpose timer IC that supplies the clock pulses. The speed is adjustable by the potentiometer knob. The 4017 IC acts as a sequencer/chaser. It has ten output pins that switch on in sequence per each clock pulse. The next chip is a ULN2803 that acts as a amplifier for the output of the 4017 to drive multiple LEDs. In this case, I am using 7 channels of outputs with two LEDs on each strand. Here is a schematic if you want to make this circuit: http://www.electroschematics.com/6170/led-chaser/



The ornaments on this tree are old ICs that were spray painted white and red. I am happy to report that I did win the decorating contest with this effort. I was going for an ‘electronic steampunk’ theme, which I think this captured. Charles even said that it looked ‘old school’, high praise indeed!

Updated Tree:


This year, I updated the original tree with a Bluetooth LED controller instead of the discreet ICs of the original version. I decided since now that it is 2016 and all of the box stores sell LED light strands and power strips with embedded Bluetooth controllers and their own ‘app for that’, my entry should reflect that technology. I thought about using a Raspberry PI and writing some PWM code in python to blink and dim the LEDs (and send tweets too!), but I decided that was a bit overkill.


I settled instead on a standalone Bluetooth LED controller (BL 370) that I bought for $25 on A-Maze-On. The device is made to control RGB LED strips, but I thought it would do fine driving 6 each red, green, and blue LEDs for my Christmas tree (Note that there is a 470 ohm resistor inline with each LED; I re-wired them after taking the pictures). The device has its own app called ‘Magic Light BLE’ for Android and IOS. The app works pretty well with lots of options to blink the lights. The only downside is that it seems like a fairly dodgy app since now on Android it requires location permission to start. So I borrowed my Mom’s old iPhone to load the app instead. While sitting next to the tree, the phone actually complements this years theme of ‘App for that Christmas tree’. Any suggestions on what to use for ornaments?  Maybe of bunch of cut off USB connectors if I can find a ready supply?

December 9th, 2015

Maple Scrap Clock

Last year I made a bunch of Bottle Openers out of Maple. The openers were cut using a jig and created a pile of little wedges as waste material.


Rather than trash them, I let them sit on my bench while I contemplated what to do with them. I floated the idea of gluing them together into a circle but I didn’t have enough pieces to make a full circle.


Above you can see all of my various calculations done in an attempt to determine how many more wedges that I would need. After almost a year sitting on the bench, I decided to finish this project by first making some more bottle openers to have more wedges and then glue them together to make a clock. The calculations went out the window and I ultimately just used enough wedges to make a circle since the new ones were slightly smaller than the originals.


As it turned out, making 11 more Maple bottle openers was still not enough wedges to make a circle. So I made a few more out of pine in order to have enough to finish the project.IMG_20151128_204659

Now that I had enough wedges, I set about gluing them together. To accomplish that, I put some screws through a piece of pegboard in order to hold my rubber band ‘clamps’ at the ready while I applied glue to all of the wedges.


And here is the clock starting to take shape after the glue was applied and the rubber bands put around it.


It turned out that the points of the wedges didn’t really line up to make true center point. It looks more like a pinwheel but I think it still looks pretty neat despite not being a perfect circle. The next step after letting the glue dry overnight was to sand down both sides of the clock to remove all of the glue from the surface.


I decided to add ‘dots’ to the clock in the form of 3/8″ oak dowels. I printed out this clock template and placed it on the face of the clock using a point of a nail to mark the center point of each dowel hole that needed to be drilled out.


Once the holes were drilled, I glued in the dowels.


The dowels were sanded flush and then several coats of polyshades oak satin finish were applied.


After painting the clock hands brown, I installed the clock movement.


The finished clock now adorns my kitchen wall.