3D printer holiday “barn raising”

So over the holidays Phil came to visit and we decided to put on a sort of electronic version of a barn rasing for his 3D printer. Phil broke down his printer and showed up with a bag of parts.

Phil was building the same model printer that I had a few years ago. So it was kind of cool using one printer to make parts to finish of another. Something cool about “I built that printer, and I am using to build another!” That said there was not a lot of “self replication” going on. Building a printer is still a lot of work.


Joel knew we were doing a build, so he came over to hang out and help.

Phil said he felt bad that Joel came over and we just put him to work for the entire time he was here. I am pretty fortunate, I don’t have a lot of close friends – but the ones I do are all the type of people to come over when you need a hand. When I thought about it, my friend Ross had extended his trip through the US a few days over the holidays 3 years ago to help me build my own printer.


Unfortunately my printer started having a weird problem that took a while to track down and fix. That set back the build a bit – so Phil’s still got some work to do when he gets home. Still, it was a fun productive visit.

Thing a day, Thing #17 Plier Rack

Watchmaker estates have some great deals on specialty hand tools for working with small parts. I recently picked up some 4” pliers with various shaped heads for manipulating small parts off ebay. Today’s thing, thing number 17, is a rack for those pliers to live on top of my assembly bench.

Thing a day, Thing 17 - Plier Rack

Again, the construction is fairly simple, and following a pattern I used before. Cut boards to length, use a coping saw to cut a matching curve into the top of the boards, partially drill through the boards holes for 3/8in oak dowels, and then glue and press fit together.

So its really easy to make, but insanely useful for keeping the tools stored neatly but still immediately at hand.

Thing a day, Thing #16 Screwdriver Rack

So a screwdriver rack is quick to build, and provides a huge improvement in workflow. This one was made from scrap and tool all of 10 minutes to build. Just cut 3 pieces of wood, glue and tack nail them into an arch, and then drill holes for the screwdrivers when done.

While you can buy screw driver racks of various types, I find that the store bought ones – by virtue of trying to be economical with space and material pack the screwdrivers too close together. When working I want to be able to reach out and snag a screwdriver, or drop it back in its place, and not have to stop and thing about threading a path back through the other screwdriver. I find that for me an optimal spacing seems to be a 1.75” grid for small tools, and 2” grid for larger ones, with the tools staggered by half grid spacing.

Shop Thing a Day, Thing 16 Screwdriver Rack

By making the rack myself I can both ensure optimal spacing, and design them to tuck away into convenient spaces, like between the support 2x4s on the soldering bench in the garage.

Thing 13,14 and 15. Drawer liners.

Thing 13, 14 and 15 are drawer liners for the watchmakers workbench. Basically you make a framework of interlocking wood pieces that precisely fits inside the drawer. The framework makes it easy to add dividers and custom storage later on.

Drawer Liner

The corners are held together with slot and tab fastening. I’m using 8th inch thick stock – so dovetails are out. You don’t want to glue the pieces together since the whole point is being able to take it apart and modify it down the road.

Drawer liner using tabbed corners

Liners don’t really show dividends right away. Over time though they let you make all sorts of custom tool holders and storage. So I have had about 30 liners I have wanted to make for ages, but they are about the lowest priority project in the shop. So – pretty perfect for the thing a day spring-cleaning of projects.

For larger drawers liners can really clean things up, as you can see in this before and after picture.

Drawer Liner Example - Before

I still need to add another half height divider, marked out by that board on the left. On the half height board will sit a small lift out till living inside the pull out drawer. Having things cleaned up in has already noticeably started saving time on projects.

Drawer Liner Example - After

Transitioning a punch to guard into an arm bar

A friend was in town a few weeks ago and showed me this technique. It’s not a Koei-Kan technique so I can post it here. Which is good, because I want an easy way to ask people about it – I can’t tell what I missed.

You deflect the punch while shrimping out of guard. The punch gets directed into the ground, while you flip your leg over the attackers head and go for the arm bar.

Full disclosure – I am posting this technique since I think I missed some of the subtle parts of it, and this makes for an easy way to ask.

Thing a day, Thing #12 Felt Tensioner for Coil Winder

I liked some of the designs that used a funnel to direct the wire coming off a spool from the area covering the spool down to a very narrow area to feed to the tensioner. I also liked the use of felt pressing against the wire to provide back tension on the wire feeding off the spool. This was my attempt to combine those two ideas.

The printed channel both forms the funnel, and allows for a top pad to press the wire into the felt. I need to make a custom jig to hold the magnets while winding to really put it through its paces, but it seems to work.

Thing a day, Thing #11 More Shop Storage

When I mounted thing #10, I added extra cleat for hanging other things. For thing # 11 I mounted some old tool storage bins my dad got rid of during summer cleaning. I’m still cleaning all the drawers since they were in the garage for 3 decades. Ironically when cleaning them the one I wanted for storing resistors in, still had some drawers with hand written labels of resistor values from when I was 12. So its come full circle.

The nice part about hanging storage bins like this on cleats, is that you can easily lift them off the wall when needed and carry them over to where you are working.

Thing a day, Thing #10 French Cleats

I wanted to clear up some much needed space on the soldering bench, so thing number 10 was adding a French cleat to the back of the combination wire holder and tool rack I built earlier this month. I loved having the large wire cutters right out where I could easily grab them, but it took up scares real estate on the soldering bench. The French cleat lets me store the holder on the wall when not in use, then easily to carry it to wherever I am working.

To make a French cleat you in essence and angled rip cut down the length of a board. Then you mount one board on the wall with the angle pointing “up”, such that when a tool with the mating half of the ripped board is mounted gravity will provide pressure statically driving the mounted tool back and into the wall. French cleats store tools securely, yet are easy to remove thing from them, since all that is involved is lifting the mounted tool up.

Now that I have the boards ripped for cleats, there are a few other tools I want to quickly put up. As much as I hate taking the time away from what I am working on for little stuff like this – it is starting to pa noticeable dividends in productivity.

Thing a day, Thing #9 Coil Winder Redesign

For thing number 9 I dusted off an old coil winder I designed. I need to wind some coils with very fine wire – so while I am re-designing it to add a tensioner mechanism and wire guides.

I guess this isn’t really a thing per se – it is my first fast nock together of the new design. When redesigning a machine / mechanism I like to put a mockup together so I can work on / add pats to a physical model to test out things that are hard to get a feel for on screen.