To actually add a new post to my blog is a bit of a shock. For my own good I will try to be more consistent.

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Casting Tin Soldiers (and Ballerinas)

Prince August Toy Soldiers is a really *Neat* company that sells kits for learning how to cast your own metal toys. I found Prince August on Ebay — they are based in Ireland and their website is here: Prince August.

We purchased ‘The Brave Tin Soldier’ Beginners Kit. They have great instructions and YouTube videos to help you get started.

I really enjoyed doing this project with my kids. An adult or trustworthy older child needs to manage the melting pot and pouring. Younger children can paint the figures. It is a good learning experience.

The Dunken Toy Mold Company is based in the US and sells many of the same kits as Prince August. I will check them out soon.

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Toy Motor Assembly

This is a neat little kit that allows you to build a universal motor. It is simple enough to modify in order to understand the designs requirements.

I wrote a short review here: ScienceFirst’s product page. For about $6 this kit is an affordable way to experience electric motors for the first time.

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Skeinforge for cnc milling

I now have some information on the use of Skeinforge for milling.

Skeinforge has an awesome reputation among additive printing users. Skeinforge is capable of creating g-code for milling. My problem has been finding examples and explanations for how to use it for this purpose.

Bits from Bites has this information to share:

milling in 3D

Skeinforge is not limited to creating gcode for extruding. By selecting “Milling as “profile type” and “End Mill” as the “Profile Selection” you can create gcode-files for milling an stl object out of a block. e.g. for Engraving.

* Flow->Flow Rate – should be 0 if the extruder is not disconnected electrically
* Export->(*) gcode-step warning: in current Skeinforge versions this setting is global and affects all profiles including Extrusion. (This is supposed to change in later versions)
* Export->Gcode step->[x] Add Z even when unchanged
* Export->Gcode step->X offset (millimeters) 2.9 – you may need to change this if your object is somewhere else on the build-platform
* Export->Gcode step->Y offset (millimeters) 30.3 – you may need to change this if your object is somewhere else on the build-platform
* Export->Gcode step->Z offset (millimeters) 0
* Export->Gcode step->X Step length (millimeters) 1
* Export->Gcode step->Y Step length (millimeters) 1
* Export->Gcode step->Z Step length (millimeters) 1
* Feed->Feed Rate (mm/s): this determines how fast the mill will move through material. Be VERY carefull with this setting or things may break.
* Mill->Loop Outset over Perimeter Width: this determines how much material there is around the model in X and Y to remove as the raw material is usually larger then the model.

Now inspect the generated g-code.

* For Skeinforge-versions before 2010-01-29 remove any line with a Z-coordinate like “Z-91234567280″. You may use a command like “cat in_export.bfb | grep -v ” Z-912″ > out.bfb”

TODO: this needs to be tested with actual wood to mill. In a dry-run it performed well but may be too fast and maybe some sizes are still wrong.

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The SR-71 Blackbird

As a kid I built several models of the SR-71 Blackbird. What I noticed immediately is the enormous size of the engines with respect to the rest of the air craft. In real life these engines are 20feet long by 4.5 feet diameter. One engine could consume fuel at an incomprehensible 65,000 pounds per hour.

I am reading about the SR-71 from the perspective of pilot and squadron commander Richard H. Graham, Col. USAF (Ret). The book is called “SR-71 Revealed: The Inside Story”.

The book I am enjoying at the moment.

The model kit I built when I was younger.
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Kitchen Plans

We are looking into ways of making our kitchen more comfortable. My son took measurements while I built a model of our kitchen in Google SketchUp.

Here is the base model of our kitchen. It currently has a counter top under the window to the right — we plan to remove the counter top so I did not show it.

Here are some ideas we have. The booth under the window would provide seating for the kids but the table can be pushed over it to make more floor space when food is being prepared.

The L shaped link is just a thought. The neat thing about SketchUp is being able to make all the mistakes before building anything.

The basic format of our kitchen.

A few ideas on how to modify our kitchen.
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A very cleverly designed tool bag — nice!

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Fish tank update 9-1-2010

The reassembly of my tank went as well as could be expected. Amazingly the two fish in the tank survived — a five year old Kuhli Loach and a three year old bristle nosed pleco.

I built the river tank manifold according to Martin Thoene’s design. I intended to use two power heads, but one of these broke during the build. It was for the best was the power head that was left provides almost too much current.

The tank layout is such that there are plenty of spaces with little or no current. I will be adding more decorative rock and maylasian driftwood which will help as well. I took it easy on plants this time and only saved three cryptocord wendenti and some java fern. These plants grow very easily so I am sure with in a few months I will be weeding the tank again.

Here are some pictures that my son Moosebot took:

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Fish-Tank Take-Back

I have a 75gallon aquarium that has been in need of being reassembled.

Two fish are in there. A small pleco and a smaller collee loach.

I have removed all the rocks, drift wood and plants. The routine is to vacuum the gravel and then top off — repeat when the water is clear — until it”s done.

I decided to add a River-Tank Manifold. This is a device design by Martin Thoene that uses power heads to create a constant current. The clever bit is that water is sucked into a PVC pipe inlet on one end of the aquarium, passes under the gravel through the PVC pipe, were it is sucked up by the power head. Filters are placed around the inlets.

His article appears in

For some in explicable reason I am interested in rheophilic animals. Some fish species actually depend on swiftly moving water in order to function normally. I thought I would try to observe the behavior of some of these species in relationship to the water velocity they experience.

Pictures when I post on this project next time.

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CNC update 7-19-2010

I think the missing steps problem has been relieved using slower feed rates.
Now my problems are that the bit either scratches the surface of the copper with out actually isolating the track. I am trying different bits.

Here is an example of three passes with missing steps on one axis:

From 7-19-2010

Here is another run using eleven (11!) passes with much slower feed rates:


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