Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Ladder Wheel Project

This last fall as usual like most guys that take care of chores around the house I had to once again drag my aluminum extension ladder out of the garage to clean the gutters.  Not a terrible task on my part as I take precautions to keep leaves out of my gutters in the first place by using gutter guards.  But this only eliminates around 80-85% of the problem.  So I still have to check the gutters to clean out whatever I can find that manages to sneak into the gutter even with using gutter guards.  It's not the gutter guards that I have a problem with.  It's the task of just dragging the ladder out in the first place.  

My step ladder is great! It can extend out to be an extension ladder. It can be adjustable to easily be used on a set of stairs.  It can even come apart and be used as two ladders so that a platform can be put between them. It is a very strong, solid aluminum construction that will last a lifetime. All good things.  The bad thing is that this ladder is heavy.  Forty-two pounds heavy.  I am not a big guy that bench presses Chevys on my weekends so to lug out a 42 pound ladder in my eyes is to but it simply....a pain.  With that in mind another project was born to eliminate this task and save my back in the process.

Why not have wheels on the ladder so that I could roll it outside when I needed it and not have to pick up this thing that is taller than I am in the first place? Shown above is what I came up with. I once again laid out the design using Fusion 360 CAD software (free by the way online) to get all of the parts I needed designed for the project work out. The image above shows the parts in various colors just so it would be easier to see all the different components. 

On the bottom of the ladder is a plastic foot that sits on the ground level when it is used as a step ladder. This foot is only held in place using a single 1/4" bolt. This worked out perfectly for my design as the framework of the wheel assembly needed to be mounted to the ladder and this mounting hole for the foot fit the bill. 

Inside of the wheel assembly is one of three mounting blocks (shown in red).  This is held in place using a 1/4-20 bolt 2.5" long and running through the outer wheel plates (shown in yellow) to keep the wheel assembly from moving up or down on the ladder arm. Then there are two more outer mounting blocks that again are mounted between the outer wheel plates and are on the outside of the ladder arm to keep the assembly from spinning.  Lastly the wheel that makes it all work that I found online needed to have a rounded shape as the ladder arms tip outward at the base at 7 degrees. A flat shaped wheel would be riding on it's edge so a rounded shape was called for.  I found what I needed by using 4" diameter inline skate wheels.

I started doing some calculations on the design and figured out that the ladder when you pick it up weighs 42 pounds.  But if you only pick up one end of it the weight you have to carry is only 21 pounds. So it only goes to show that each wheel only needs to carry 10.5 pounds each.  I original was thinking that I would have to make the wheel plates on the outside of the assemblies in aluminum.  I did some test parts and decided to just 3D print the entire assembly similar to what a bridge would be built like. 

Also when I 3D print parts I adjust the amount of fill I have inside the part along with the number of layers to construct it.  So if you had an egg and the shell was one layer thick to make it stronger you make more layers.  This is what I did here on this assembly.  Instead of my usual two layers I beefed it up to four layers thick and instead of making it hollow (no fill at all) I filled it at 40% fill. This make the parts very solid and with the light load I think the assembly will do the job I designed it for rather nicely. 

This is what I normally look like when I try to pick up my step ladder. Even using both hands the expression on my face is not much different than the one you see here.  (Maybe not as extreme but you get the idea).

Here I'm a much happier camper! One handed and I'm still smiling!  Eliminating 20+ pounds helps a lot. Plus the fact that now I can just roll the ladder wherever I want effortlessly! A win-win in my book any day.

I was not sure that the 4" wheels would be big enough to do the job but then again I did not want to make the wheels to large either just to make storage any more difficult in the process.  I will keep an eye on the wear and tear that the wheel assemblies take over time just as a precaution. 

Once I did bolt everything on to my ladder the wheel assemblies stiffened up very nicely so I think the design will do it's job as planned.  

By the way the ladder wheel assembly is only used to roll the ladder from place to place. You never step on the ladder with the wheels supporting it.  It's designed not to be able to work that way. When the ladder is used as normal the wheels do not even touch the ground. This eliminates the chance that the ladder would roll out of place and at the least have the wheel assembly break apart because of the extra weight if you stepped on the ladder when using it. The smile on my face will increase over the years as I use this newly designed attachment to eliminate or at least lighten the load so to speak of a back breaking chore. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Simple Project For Great Photos Of Your Projects!

Over the years I have been complimented numerous times by people who have seen photos on the blog of the projects I build and how these photos themselves look. So with that in mind I thought I would show you a very simple project that anyone can build to get the same results that I do.  In almost all of my photos of my projects, the subject is photographed so that there is a seamless white or colored background behind it.  This shows off the projects nicely and is easily achieved using a small stand made from 1/2" PVC pipe, some connectors, poster board and painters tape. 

The photo above shows the simple stand that you will need to construct for this project. Here is a list of materials that you will need to put it all together.

1/2" PVC Pipe 24" long - 2 needed (upper framework)
1/2" PVC Pipe 14" long - 6 needed (upper framework and legs)
1/2" PVC Pipe 1 1/2" long - 4 needed (upper framework ends)
1/2" PVC "T" connecter - 4 needed (upper framework)
1/2" PVC Elbow - 4 needed (Top connectors for legs)
1/2" PVC End Cap - 4 needed (Bottom of legs)
12" - 20" of Painters Tape

The PVC is cut to length using a pipe cutter or small hand saw.  Then assembled to the connectors, elbows and end caps (as shown above) to make up the stand that is pictured in this post.  No glue is needed as this makes it easily possible to fold the stand up when not in use. Just push all the parts together as there is enough of a friction fit to make it all the parts hold together and stand up easily.

Next attach a large piece of poster board to the rear cross member using painters tape. The poster board shown in the photo above is 22" x 28" in size.  This can be found at any craft store or any store that handles school supplies. I use painters tape to attach the poster board. When you have completed taking the photos you want the painters tape can then be pulled off of the poster board and then wrapped around the upper framework for later use. With the shorter edge of the poster board attached to the rear cross member the poster board naturally bends when it is resting on a table.  This makes a nice even seamless background with no ugly edges for your pictures.

This is what my subject looks like once it has been placed on the "stage" ready for photos. As you can see I have a lot of room for my little Lego Jet Man and it's and easy task to center him for pictures.

At this point, the process that I use to get the photos I want is to play with the lighting and position of my subject until I think I have what I want or at least something I can work with to edit later for use in the blog. The above photo is one that I thought would work out pretty well. 

Once I have a photo that I can work with I bring it into a simple photo editing software on my computer.  All I really need to do at this point is crop the photo down to eliminate everything but my subject. Then I adjust the lighting and contrast and when I am happy with it I call it good.  It's that simple.  It gives me a nice photo of my project so that I can show you and everyone else who reads my blog what I am working on or have just completed. The photo above probably should have used a colored background so that the white propellers would have shown up better but you get the idea for this setup anyway.

It's that simple to get good photos of your projects to show off your hard work to your family and friends or post on your own blog. Cost for the background stand for your project photos is very inexpensive (less than $10) and will last for years. So put one together for you next photo shoot. You'll be glad you did. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Merry Christmas From The Tinker's Workshop

I can't believe that another year has passed so quickly and we're enjoying another Christmas season once again.  I enjoy Christmas and am very grateful to all of you who have faithfully been following me while I design and build the  projects I write about on my blog every year. You are the very special people who give me encouragement to continue working on the things that I create. I enjoy writing my blog for people like you so I can show you how I manage to make new and sometimes unusual things.  You have brightened my days over the years with the many complimentary comments that I have received and helped me with suggestions to make not so great projects better than ever.

I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope that the projects that you dream about, plan for, and work hard at will turn out far better than you ever imagined. Thank you all once again for another great year on the blog!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Scrooch Gun Part 3..... It's Completed!

I am happy to report that I was able to put the finishing touches to my Scrooch gun project this morning.  Not a terribly difficult project with only a few modifications to get the kinks worked out here and there on the design. So let me show you how it all turned out.
(Click on the images for a larger view)

As I stated in my last post about this project I was not able to get the word "Scrooch" put on the side of the gun.  Simply because the lettering was way to small to get it to work out. I would have needed an electron microscope to get it cut out and then laid down the way I wanted.  At least that's the way it seemed at the time. So I opted for a simple lightning bolt in bright yellow instead. It looks to be a good choice for this 50's style space gun.

The details that show up in the photos of the gun turned out very well. I was a bit worried about the red trigger being as smooth as I wanted it to be and am happy with my efforts on that detail and it's installation.  Very clean all the way around. 

The pistol stands 7" tall and is 10 3/4" long from front to rear.  Overall weight of the Scrooch gun came in at exactly 12.5 oz.  So it has a nice solid feel to it when you pick it up.  There are only two bolts that hold the pistol grip to the body of the Scrooch gun and a threaded rod that runs through the entire length of the body to hold the canister (shaving cream can), 3D printed parts, red discs, and clear dome nozzle all together. 

The rear of the gun worked out very well also.  I like the digital display along with the red on/off switch. It gives me ideas for another pistol but next time make it actually functional. Not as a real weapon of course but as having a real digital display with a trigger that when pressed would make a space gun sound.  Then add in LED lights that flash at the front of the gun to top it all off.   All of the electronics to make it all work could be housed in the large canister that you see here or something like it.   Something to think about for sure. 

I took a load of photos this morning to get various angles of the Scrooch gun shot for this post. Out 45 photos the ones you see here are what I felt were the best of the lot.  They give you a good idea of the overall look and detail of the pistol. 

Here's another good shot of the rear of the pistol with the digital display and the on/off switch.  The digital display was simply printed on my computer printer and then covered with clear packaging tape to waterproof it.  I then glued it into the cavity you see here. Turned out better than I had hoped.  The red on/off switch I 3D printed and then sprayed gloss red. The black inset to make the on/off emblem on the switch was designed into the part and with the part being black to start I was lucky enough to have still stand out after I painted it red. 
Lastly I wanted to show off just the display stand itself that I put together for the project.  The base is nothing more than a well sanded piece of plywood that I primed and painted gloss black. The vertical and horizontal pieces that make of the support arms for the display are 1/4 aluminum rods and the black connecting parts on the support arms are 3D printed parts that I designed and made with my 3D printer. The base only needed to be drilled to receive the support arms and the arms themselves were simply super glued together. A very solid and clean looking display stand. 

That's about it for this project.  Now I will have to find nice little corner of my workroom or living room to display my latest creation.  Enjoy the photos and have a good day on your latest project.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Scrooch Gun Project Part Two

I wanted to get this post out before I make any further progress with my Scrooch gun project.  As with most projects not all things go according to plan.  This has been the case again with this project so it was no big surprise for me. Parts have taken longer to dial in and some parts needed to be totally scrapped and the list goes on from there.  But I want to show what progress has been made in the right direction to complete the project.

Here once again are the original images of my computer model for the project.  In these images I will explain what has happened and what needed to be changed.  On the rear of the gun a new display has been worked out that I feel is an improvement from what I had originally planned.  This being a digital display (non-functional) and an red on/off switch (again non-functional). The chrome inserts on the side of the gun had to be scrapped completely.  They look good in these images but turned out to be way to small to actually be built to look like the images above.  The name Scrooch Gun on the side also needed to be scrapped as this was near impossible to make on my vinyl cutter.  Super tiny would best describe the letters which made it awful to try and work with the vinyl as a decal. Other plans have been worked out for a new design for the sides of the gun.

The good news is that the red disks, clear dome front, trigger, orange canister, and pistol grip look to be right on the mark to what you see here.  So read further to see where I am with the build now.

I started this project by drilling out the center of the empty can of shaving cream. This was an easy task for my drill press and by using a small grid laid out on paper to get the positioning of the hole correct on the bottom of the can.

I then sanded the canister down to take most of the paint off of the outside before I sprayed it with a nice bright glossy orange color.

Here is the paper grid that I used on the canister and needed for the next portion of the build.

I took a plastic half sphere normally used for a Christmas decoration and cut it down to make a flatter dome shape for the front of the gun.  With the grid laid out on the drill press I was able to pinpoint where the drill would be centered on the grid and then placed the dome to match it's location to center the hole needed to mount it on the gun correctly.  This worked out pretty well and I am happy that I came as close as I did to hitting dead center on the dome.  So it was worth the effort.

 For the red disks for the gun I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a laser cutter that is now up and running at the makerspace where I teach CAD and fiberglassing.  I again worked out the files I needed for the laser cutter and in 30 seconds the parts were cut out perfectly.  I couldn't have ever cut these out by hand this nicely.  I could try but I doubt I would get this good of results. 

Here the red disks and clear dome are laid out with three 3D printed parts for the barrel of the gun along with a few pieces of hardware to tie it all together.

Here's a good shot of the barrel or should I say blaster end of the gun assembled on to a threaded rod that runs through the entire assembly to hold it all together.  I really like the red disks along with the silver painted 3D printed parts of the assembly. 

Here are the parts that make up the body of the gun. All are 3D printed and pretty much worked out as planned.  All except the one
that is in the upper right corner of the photo.  This piece took two hours to 3D print which in the scheme of 3D printing in general is not a terribly long time.  Only trouble is that it took me three tries to get it dialed in to work correctly. 

Here is a good shot of the rear of the pistol with the digital display and on/off switch painted and installed into it.  These are nice details that will make the Scrooch gun stand out when it is completed.

Another good reference shot of the 3D printed parts assembled without the orange painted canister or the blaster front mount assembly. All of these parts are held together with just two button head bolts that are mounted in the base of the assembly and held in place with two recessed nuts in cavities in the two upper mountings for the orange canister. 

I should have the pistol completely assembled in the next few days.
I will make sure to put out the final posting about it and let you see the end results.  I think you'll like it.  Until then have a good day in your workshop.