Topic: Making

Laptop Arm Stand

2024-04-22 16:51 - Making

My laptop computer, on the fold out table in the sofa.

For a bit over a year, I've had my laptop sitting on this fold out table built into the middle seat of my sofa. It's okay, but it's not great. It's a bit too far to the side and too far back to make usage really comfortable and practical. For a while I've thought about mounting an arm that would hold the laptop in a more adjustable and flexible place. I finally did something about it, with the commercial arm arriving just yesterday. With it in hand I saw exactly how it worked and what size it is, so this morning I started drafting plans for how to mount it. Something made of wood, attached to and/or wedged under the structure of the sofa. I simplified through a few revisions.

The wooden stand I designed and built to hold my laptop arm.

This is what I came up with. It's an L shape, with the arm mounted to the top of the vertical leg, and the horizontal leg fitting under the front of the sofa. The horizontal leg prevents side-to-side tipping by pressing against either the floor or the sofa. A triangular brace makes that reliably strong, and a second prevents the vertical leg from tipping away from the sofa. The L part was designed somewhat carefully, while the rest was just made to fit. Everything was material already available in the basement. A C clamp is hidden by the triangular brace, holding the horizontal leg of the L to the sofa's metal frame.

The laptop now resting on a flexible arm, letting me position it just where I like.

And here it is. I can pull the laptop almost down into my lap and push it further away from me, with very little effort. I've got pretty much exactly what I was hoping for.

Air Conditioner Support Bracket

2023-05-22 09:33 - Making

When I moved in here, the house still had the original single pane windows from the 40s installed. Not only did that merit attention, there was historically only a single air conditioner in the whole house — installed in the one window that had been replaced with a more traditional double-hung arrangement, to fit the A/C. And since it was responsible for the whole house, it is a big unit! Very early this year, we had all the windows replaced. That means they're "replacement" windows. Rather than being built into the house (i.e. "new construction" windows) they're designed to fit into the existing opening. Which means some of the structure of the window moves inward, to what used to be window opening. So, this one important window opening is now in a slightly different place, and the existing support structure won't hold up the existing A/C correctly. Given that it's such a big one, I wanted to be sure that we can hold it up well. So I came up with a design.

My design, in SketchUp, for a wooden bracket to hold the existing air conditioner in the new window opening.

It starts with a 2x4 cut into a complex shape to fit around all the bumps and tabs in the window frame plus a bit at the bottom of the A/C which sticks down. Attached to that is another which sticks straight out, two to brace it, and then another which sticks down. This final one has both a triangle brace and an extra foot to reach around the brick window sill down to the main exterior wall of the house.

Newly built A/C support bracket, exterior view. Newly built A/C support bracket, interior view.

Here it is. It was built from reclaimed wood which used to be a bench. It's not the prettiest, but it will be underneath the air conditioner, so it doesn't need to be. It's full of extra holes, but that's OK. It's also wood from a product meant to be outside. I'm not sure what kind of wood, but it's reddish. I could believe cedar, either way it should stand up to the elements OK. Some of the building was done a bit freehand, but with the key sizes measured it came out extremely close to my original design. I can pretty well hang myself off it, so I'm sure it will hold the A/C up just fine.

Weekend Project: Wireless Power Control

2023-04-16 19:51 - Making

An X10 PalmPad remote. An X10 CM19A RF signal transceiver. A Sonoff S31 WiFi enabled power switch.

As I mentioned recently, I'm working on "smarting up" power control at home. Back in my co-op apartment I had a fully X10 based system, and I still have many of the parts for it. An important one is the HR12A PalmPad Remote Control. For those I've looked at, remote controls are either missing or terribly expensive for modern "smart" home systems. The link shows that a still brand new one from X10 is only $17, and it has both on and off buttons for eight devices, plus a switch to control another eight, plus a dim/bright control. The closest thing I can find (they're hard to find!) is an YoLink Remote which only controls five devices and costs $30 (and probably only works with their proprietary system).

This pairs with the CM19A USB PC Transceiver which can both receive and send RF X10 signals. I previously used this to send X10 signals, via my home server. I've reworked that now: it's only receiving. The PalmPad remote sends signals when I press buttons and the server receives them via the CM19A. It then generates network requests. So far to the fan/light control I mentioned earlier and to the last thing pictured: A Sonoff S31 "smart switch".

Since they're cheap and I already have several: now it's easy to leave one PalmPad by the couch, one by the desktop computer, and one near my bed. If I'm planning to head to bed? I can turn the light and/or fan off in the living room, and the light on in the bedroom. Without extra trips back and forth, and without fumbling around in the dark. And I've got five more buttons to assign, without even flipping the switch! I can send the same controls from a computer/tablet/phone through the little web app running on my home server. I've barely had it a day and I already greatly appreciate being able to easily turn the ceiling fan on or off as I please, without getting up.

Bedsofa Riser

2023-01-02 09:57 - Making

A while ago I made "The Bedsofa", a sort of headboard designed like the back of a sofa, for comfortable sitting up (and reading) in bed. When I made it, I was living in a loft apartment, and it was designed to work with the mattress sitting right on the floor. (The loft was around four feet high, no room to put the mattress up on a real bed, there.

A simple riser to make the bedsofa headboard line up with the mattress, now that the mattress will be up on a bed.
The riser I've designed, plus an "exploded view" to plan how many boards will be needed to build it.

So this is the plan: a simple little frame, to raise the bedsofa the same amount that the bed frame will raise the mattress. Almost. My original design didn't work out perfectly so the cushions hang a bit lower than intended. Raising the bedsofa a little bit less than the mattress will make those sit up where they were originally intended. So this will be ten inches tall, while the bed frame is twelve.

I've still got the rest of the material I upholstered the bedsofa with, so this riser should blend right in. Now I've just got to figure out the best way to get some two-by-four boards home!

New DIY Closet Rod Hangers

2022-12-31 21:38 - Making

Lots of t-shirts, now hanging from a closet rod.

The first board cut to length, with the curtain rod cut-out planned. Both boards fully cut and painted. Both boards installed.

I moved almost exactly a month ago. The bedroom closet has a unique closet rod situation: self made hangers, from 1x4 lumber, around the perimeter of the closet. Since the closet is shallow but wide (I guess), they were installed to allow either two front-to-back closet rods on the sides, or one across the width. But the long closet rod in there isn't long enough to reach the hangers on either side, and the width is much more than double the depth. I'd like to use the long closet rod, but I can't as-is.

There's also some pipes feeding the radiator upstairs, tucked on one side. So the solution seemed to be to build a new hanger in the right position to support the existing closet rod, plus avoid the area with the heating pipes at the same time. I started by cutting a board to length, and finding the right shape hole to match the one already in place. I cut a second board the same length, to be a backstop so the rod can't slide and fall out.

Once cut, the boards were painted white to better match what already existed in the closet. Four "toe-screwed" screws support the main board, with the cutout, from each corner. Two screws go through the face to support the backstop board from there. Once installed, you can see the preexisting hanger already along the wall, which the rod couldn't reach.

Weekend Repair: USB Power Strip

2022-02-13 12:48 - Making

I had to do laundry, and I was out of funds so I had to trek to the basement to recharge my laundry card. While there, I passed the electronics recycling bin. I spotted a nifty looking two-outlet four-USB power strip. Sometimes people toss things that are perfectly working. This one was not.

The USB power strip while still open, just after replacing the fuse.

But it looked pretty nice, so I took the time to look into it. First I tried the USB ports, nothing. A little dot on the front looked like a status light, not lit. Then I tried the AC outlets: those also didn't work. At this point, it was time to open it up. There were two visible screws on the bottom, but that wasn't enough. There were two more screws, under two of the four rubber feet. Then some plastic clips holding the base on, and I was in. I found a much larger and more complicated circuit board to run the USB ports than I'd expect, and one smaller one.

The smaller board was directly connected to the AC input, one leg via the switch. Once I flipped it out, I found what not only looked clearly like a fuse but also was labeled "F1" on the board. And it was blown. I couldn't see what its original ratings were — this was a little glass fuse, the ratings are normally stamped on the metal ends. I ended up putting an 8 amp fuse in to replace it, from what I already had on hand. Which was a bare fuse, no leads like the original had. So I took some short wires, soldered it in, and covered everything in shrink wrap (like the original) to be safe. You'll have to look close at the picture to see it: it's at the bottom/right of the picture. A large black blob is the original shrink wrapped board. The smaller and closer black blob is the new shrink wrapped fuse, with little green wires leading back to the board.

Once I put the fuse in and closed it up: everything works fine! And of course, the status light is an awful bright blue thing. The hole for it is small enough, but tons of light leaks around the USB ports.

Webcam Tripod Extension Mount

2021-09-09 18:08 - Making

My hastily-made extension arm to mount a webcam on a tripod, at a distance.

As mentioned earlier, I've been streaming my video game play online. To improve the stream, I've added a webcam to show my face. I've got a (probably?) unusual setup, in that I'm just sitting on my couch, looking at my TV, as I always have while video gaming. No good spot to put the camera. My first try just twist-tied the camera onto the tripod, then aggressively cropped that, to keep just the part that's my face. This moves the camera much closer to me while keeping the legs further away, because they need to be given the furniture layout!

It's a tiny piece of wood, drilled and tapped for quarter-twenty, to attach to the tripod. A matching hole is drilled in a bit of "angle iron" (aluminum, actually) I already had lying around. At the front is a 3D print I quickly threw together which (thankfully on the first try!) friction-fits around the angle and the camera's own mounting knob.

My streaming setup is pretty cobbled together, like this. Which is absolutely fine for now!

Battery Holder

2021-05-05 20:15 - Making

A 3D printed battery holder I designed and made.

I love rechargeable batteries. Much cheaper over time, and more convenient: it's pretty easy to keep a few charged and ready, and thus never need to worry about running out or getting more. For a while I had two little plastic buckets (old takeout containers!) to hold charged and used batteries each. But that's still a bit messy, and doesn't allow for even rotation.

It's pretty easy to buy battery holders, but the ones I could find are bulky (almost all including lots of C and D cell slots I don't need) and surprisingly expensive for a little chunk of plastic. So I made my own chunk of plastic! It's just a little box with some circular holes, of the right size to fit AAA and AA cells. I can put them + side up to signal that they're charged, and build a left-to-right kind of plan to make sure I'm always picking up the oldest one to use next, and putting the used ones back in at the "end of the line".

Lights for 3D Printer

2021-04-14 21:44 - Making

I've wanted extra lighting on my 3D printer for a while, but only a little. A while back I replaced the broken extruder(s). The old ones had fans built in, but they always seemed pointless: they were mounted on the outside of the extruder, so they couldn't even cool the stepper effectively. And they were incompatible with the new extruders so they came off.

LED light strips installed on the bottom of the top layer of my 3D printer.

This left extra unused power connectors exactly where I planned on installing lights. Today I finally took the time to put some LEDs from the strip I already had in place, using that connector. They provide decent illumination, but reveal how unreliable the 12v rail is: I can now see as the heaters kick in, because they cause an immediate dip in the brightness of these LEDs. I'll need to try adding capacitor(s), at least.