Virtual Reality Car Racing and Flying Simulation Rigs

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Recently I decided it might be fun to see what VR was about. I’ve never been a gamer and I didn’t want to waste a lot of time, but I did want to get a good feel for where the current state of VR simulations are. I think you have to own a system to have adequate time to get a feel for it.

My expectations were initially a bit low. I had read about the screen door effect, god rays, and complaints about resolution, field of view etc.. However I was surprised at how well Gen 1 headsets work. Yes, I can see the pixels, but it is immersive and you tend to forget about the pixels pretty quickly and just react to your virtual environment.

VR Hardware:

I started with an Oculus Rift system with 2 front firing and 1 rear firing sensor. The Oculus Touch controllers are excellent and with 3 sensors the head tracking and Touch tracking are excellent. The Rift is also relatively light compared to most and has pretty good quality headphones built in. I mounted the sensors on tripods in my media room.

There are many headsets available including the Vive, recently released Windows MR headsets such as the Samsung Odyssey, and kick starter headsets like the Pimax. I picked the Rift because a number of the simulation titles are optimized for Oculus and it’s low price of $350. VR headsets are in their infancy and will evolve very quickly so I consider them somewhat disposable like early digital camera bodies, and I don’t want to debate which is best because something much better will make them all obsolete quickly.

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VR software support:

  • SteamVR – supports everything
  • Oculus – supports only Oculus
  • ReVive (takes Oculus only titles and allows Vive / Windows MR headsets to work with a slight speed penalty)

Titles written specifically for SteamVR seem to work uniformly well on everything. This is a great standard that the Vive/Oculus and Windows MR headsets can use.

Titles with direct Oculus support will run faster on the Rift. Many of the car racing games have direct Oculus support and SteamVR support.

ReVive involves an overhead process to make other headsets talk to Oculus only titles.

Purchasing VR titles:

Generally you will want to purchase your VR titles through Steam since they will work with anything. If you purchase through the Oculus store the VR titles will only work with Oculus devices.

Computer Hardware:

i5-4690K, 16Gb, 250Gb & 1Tb SSD’s, GTX Titan
Windows 10 Professional

This is a small mini-ATX computer I put together for my RC Helicopter flight simulator a while back and it’s doing a pretty good job with gen 1 VR, but I don’t have all the settings cranked up. Likely the whole system will need replacing for the next generation of VR headsets. Obviously there are much more powerful systems out there and a GTX 1080TI or upcoming Volta card would certainly be much more powerful.

My Oculus Rift headset and 3 sensors use all 4 of the USB 3.0 ports on this computer and the HDMI graphics card port. I’m running a DVI port to the TV on the wall. One front USB 2.0 port supports both the wireless mouse and keyboard. That leaves 3 more USB ports. Only 1 of the front ports is needed for my car racing rig because it is an integrated ecosystem that all plugs together. My flight rig uses all of the remaining 3 USB ports.

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A few things about VR:

VR Nausea:  There are two things that can cause nausea in VR.

  1. If the computer is unable to generate a solid frame rate of 90fps the head tracking may stutter or lag and cause queasiness.
  2. The other bigger issue is when you see yourself moving in VR but can not feel the accelerative forces on your body.

There is a rating system for VR titles based on how much motion there is.

  • Comfortable
  • Moderate
  • Intense

An example of a Comfortable title is Oculus’s Robo Recall which is a lot of fun. It works best in room scale and you are swinging around shooting and grabbing derelict robots. There is lots of action, however you teleport from place to place and never experience motion.

A Moderate title would be Mission ISS or Lucky’s Tale. In Mission ISS you can grab handles and move around in a weightless environment. In Lucky’s Tale you move like a balloon tethered to the main character that you control like a character in Mario Brothers.

The car racing and flight sims are Intense. There is lots of motion happening in VR that you don’t feel in real life and for some people that causes queasiness. My son had no issues. However I can remember the first time I slid off the road in Dirt Rally and threw my car in reverse. My stomach did flip flops as the car flew backwards and I felt nothing. FWIW I think car track racing games are much easier on your stomach than titles like Dirt Rally ( which is my favorite VR title )

I have one other title that is rated Intense for a reason other than motion. It’s called “The Climb” and it’s rated Intense because of the potential for vertigo while you are climbing a cliff face with your bare hands hanging hundreds of feet off the ground.

The good news is that after about a week or so I got used to this and it was no longer an issue. Until then I found ginger pills taken with food 30-60min before playing helped me get through half an hour or so of game play. Now I can play for over an hour with no ill effects.

My Car and Flight Rigs:

I found out very quickly that like anything else you can spend an unlimited amount of money on these rigs and they can get very heavy and bulky fast.

My constraints were:

  • Space – I wanted something I could foldup/break down and stow in the closet.
  • Quality – I wanted something very good so I didn’t have regrets or feel like I missed out on the experience, but with a solid following and strong resale value when I was done.

Shared Seat:

I ended up with a 2008 Volkswagen Passat fully manual passenger seat from a local junk yard for $40. Passenger seats tend to have less wear. It slides front/back, reclines, has lumbar support and the seat bottom lifts up to become more upright which works well for flight sims and then drops down which is better for the car sims. I took it home, pressure washed it, used my shampooer to pull most of the water out. It cleaned up nicely.

I just had to build a basic support for the rails with a cross member that I could use to secure it to the two rigs.

Down for car racing (left) , Up for the flight rig (right)

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Building a Car Racing Rig:

To gain portability the chair detaches from the controls and the controls collapse down. I went with a Wheelstand Pro 2 and RGF attachment to hold the shifter. It was never designed to support a hand brake which I could easily pull forward, but a ratcheting strap took care of that issue.

Granted an 80/20 frame or something like an RSeat RS1 would be more rigid, but in VR, I’ve not noticed any issues. The critical thing is that I can get on the brake hard and I can pull back hard on the hand brake.

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The controls are all Fanatec ClubSport equipment.

  • Clubsport 2.5 Wheelbase
  • Porsche 918 racing wheel
  • Clubsport 3.0 pedals & Performance Brake kit
  • Clubsport 1.5 shifter
  • Hand brake

Immersion and Vibrations:

The Clubsport 2.5 Wheelbase has two strong motors that pull in opposite directions. They produce something called Force Feedback. It adds resistance and pulls the wheel in directions based on the physics of the car. It also lets you feel bumps and the sensation of loosing traction as it goes light or goes airborne. These pedals also have a small shaker in the brake and gas pedal to simulate ABS kicking on.

A nice feature that most of the car racing software have is sharing information that can be accessed by 3rd party software. This includes information about the road surface like it’s texture, bumps and also engine rpm, speed, when the rear wheels are sliding etc. This is great for aftermarket HUD’s and is what SimVibe relies on.

In the system I’ve put together there is a transducer mounted to the bottom of the seat, the pedals and the gear shift. This adds bumps, impacts, engine vibration the feeling of your rear wheels sliding with many effects available.

I’ve found that the steering wheel force feedback and additional vibrations make driving in VR feel much more realistic and add to the experience.

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To make SimVibe work with my setup involved the following:

1. Installing the SimVibe software and allowing it to find the software I have installed so it could setup profiles.

2. Modifying the profiles to taste. They can be done by title and even by specific car in each title.

3. I’m using 2 x  1.8” stereo to RCA plugs from the computer to an old AV receiver to drive 3 transducers.

From my experience having vibrations in the seat of your pants matters most followed by the pedals. The gear shift having engine vibrations adds but not nearly as much.

The end result is very impressive and feels believable. I could play for half an hour and work up a bit of a sweat pulling against the wheel and driving.

Flight Rig:

For flying I’m currently only using DCS World which is downloadable with a couple aircraft on Steam for free. However I also got their Huey, A-10, F-15, and P-51.

The HOTAS is the Thrustmaster A-10 stick and throttle.

The pedals are MFG Crosswinds from Croatia. I also ordered a 3” extension pipe for the stick from MFG when I ordered the pedals. The extension really helps.

There is a lot more plywood work on this. Basically the seat is slid until the foot pedals feel right, then the stick is slid up to the front of the seat and the throttle is slid to a comfortable position.

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My flight rig does support vibrations in the seat through a different software package. You can feel rumble on the runway, various vibrations, projectiles firing etc..

Car Racing vs. Flight vs. Other VR

This is a very personal thing. There are arcade experiences as well as realistic simulations available for both.

If I have a friend over, the car racing sim is much easier to get going quickly since most people know how to drive. The flight simulations can be very involved and there are lots of switches to map and training involved before a person can dive in.

For some aircraft you can spend hours just learning all the controls, how to do a preflight, starting the engines up and taxi out to the runway and take off. It can also take a while to learn how to land and use all the weapons.

Car racing on a track frequently involves shaving fractions of a second off times. If you want a realistic racing experience iRacing has races that kick off every hour and that try to bin real people by ability level. There is no AI, and they use the full rules of racing.  Others like Assetto Corsa and Project Cars have AI drivers allowing racing without Internet access, but also have online multiplayer racing. However they allow doing things like turning off damage and making things easier for the racers and can allow a group of friends to start up a race by invitation only.

There are lots of ways to enjoy these simulations and I would argue that VR is much more immersive when you have a complete set of REAL controls at your finger tips. I felt like I was flying a Huey helicopter and it is an interesting experience.

In real life I have Autocrossed, done a Rally, and had flight instruction in a Cessna 152 and a couple sailplanes.

Real life experiences are fantastic, but I will never drive an ultra expensive Rally Car around hairpin turns on cliffs in Greece, or go airborne over sharp hills in Finland. Real life for those experiences is simply too dangerous and expensive for me to do in real life. I’ll never fly an F-15 or P-51, etc.. or “free solo” climb up a rock face. VR allows me to get a “taste” of what doing some things is really like and that is where I think VR shines.

I’m still not a gamer and I enjoyed building my rigs and figuring out how to make everything work more than playing VR games. However I have enjoyed the VR experience and I’m very sure that the software titles will become more and more compelling over time and the immersion more and more realistic.

I’m very excited about where Augmented Reality is going and I can see some serious real world uses for that well past games.  VR can already be used as a training tool, but I see AR as potentially being a new level of day to day existence.

Update: 1/23/2018 I’ve been playing Eve Valkyrie Warzone with  my Flight controls for a few weeks. This is a childhood fantasy realized. It feels like I’m piloting a space fighter launched Battlestar Galactica style from a space carrier with a team of real and AI players pitted against a  team of real and AI players. I’ve gotten more grins from this game than anything I’ve experienced to date.  The production values of this game are excellent. The sights and sounds are perfect.  As you progress your rating increases and you are grouped with a team and opponents at a similar level. As you level up and get better so does your competition. As a result the game changes over time keeping things interesting.

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2017 Fall Wood Working Project Multimedia Room Table

This is the most satisfying wood working project I’ve done to date. I’m really enjoying this piece on a daily basis. I apologize if I’m a bit proud of it.

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We had a non-ideal table setup in our media room that I cobbled together a couple years ago.  This time I wanted something with 3 shallow drawers in front with no knee hazards and a large snack try that pulled out in back for big bags of chips and pop corn etc.. And this time the joinery and finish work were going to be less “utilitarian” looking.

The table top has a Bar Top Epoxy finish and the rest is Arm-R-Seal over SealCoat.  There is a book matched piece of Bird’s Eye Maple in the center with Ebony accent strip, framed with highly figured quarter sawn white oak and banded in Ribbon Sapele.

The snack tray bottom is Curly Maple with Bird’s Eye Maple front and back and sides of white oak.

readytouse

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The picture below was before final shaping and finish, but I like the angle. Notice the tolerances on the drawers. The drawer fronts were cut from a single piece of glued up birds eye maple, sapele and white oak with a thin kerf bandsaw blade and finished with a hand plane on a shooting board so they look nearly solid.

featurecomplete2

 

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The project started off at Jeffery’s Lumber to find some pretty hardwoods and I only started of with a basic plan and figured everything out as I went.

It was killing me that my small bandsaw could only cut 4.5” thick wood and I didn’t want 4 panels in the top of this table, so I bumped up to a bandsaw that could resaw up to 14” thick.

bandsawdone

I was also not happy with the work surfaces around my table saw so I built a couple infeed/outfeed/ side tables for my table saw.

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It all started with the center piece of the table, the Bird’s Eye Maple. This is the book match cut. I started the piece with the table saw top and bottom to try to manage any drift.

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This gave me the focal point I wanted for the top of the table.

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I started with a core piece of 3/4” baltic birch with the hope that using veneers and glue would make the piece stable long term. So I started by banding the core with Ribbon Sapele.

Sapele

After banding the baltic birch with Sapele, I block planed and sanded it flush.

Makeedgesflat

Then the bookmatched Bird’s Eye was glued together.

gluebookmatch

I decided to use an Ebony Accent and I learned that Ebony darkens after exposure to light and air. Below are 4 strips of Ebony, showing freshly cut top, exposed to sun and air for a few hours middle and the dark edge bottom.

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The the center piece is sandwiched between Ebony and White Oak ends, then the entire length was run through the table saw to get a clean edge on both sides before it was glued to the baltic birch core.

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The front and back edging was then glued on.

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Then I spent some quality time with my #6 hand plane and got the table top flush.

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planesides

This is probably not the way most people would do this, but I ran the table top over my router table rather than running a router around the table.

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Then after some time with a random orbital sander it was ready for a protective coat of SealCoat while I continued on the rest of the project.

prepped

It’s worth noting that I tried a number of stains, oils and dyes, but my wife liked the natural look of the wood so it was just Shellac for now. In my eyes this was beautiful.

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There are 1/8” slots routed in the 1/4” baltic birch plywood center panel for the drawer supports and 3/4” plywood sections with brass inserts to hold the legs.

bottomrouted

Each leg has 3 bolts holding it in place.

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Switching to the snack tray. There are 15 degree dado slots in the sides to hold 1/4” baltic birch plywood core and there is a 1/2” baltic birch bottom core.

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snacktrayfitted

With the tray fitted between the leg supports, the drawer sides and supports are cut.

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For assembly disassembly there needed to be two holes in the side drawer supports.

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Created interior and exterior veneers for the snack drawer out of Curly Maple and Bird’s Eye Maple.

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Glued up the snack tray veneers.

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Started work on the legs with edge banding and leg supports with 1/2” fascia boards.  Glued up the strip for the drawer fronts. Cut veneers for the legs.

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Started gluing up the legs.

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Dado cut 1 1/8” thick white oak front and back pieces that created an I-beam like structure and got those fitted. Did some rough shaping of the feet.

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Legs shaped and sealed.

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Picked some pretty Walnut veneer patterns for the drawer bottoms.

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Routed the slots and cut runner pieces for the drawers.

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Glued the drawers together without drawer fronts. Then with careful attention to the drawer front placement glued the drawer fronts on in-situ.

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It is now feature complete and ready for final sanding and finish.

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Taped up the bottom of the table to allow me to peel off Bar Top epoxy drips.

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I had closed off this room, shut the vents and left the table in there to set overnight to let dust settle before putting the epoxy on.

Epoxy is down, now to patiently let it dry for a few days…

Letitdry

Then I put the legs in tightened the bolts and put it in my media room.

This is probably my last project of the year while I focus on other things.

2017 Summer Wood Working Project Walnut Plant Stand

We had a square table in our front foyer holding a plant and one of our cats would sit on the corners of that table and eat this plant. So I built this round table to protect the plant and it seems to be working. This was my first solid hardwood project.

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Started by gluing up a beautiful piece of 1” plus thick walnut.

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Used carpet tape and a shallow 1/8” guide hole to center this walnut slab on a 1/2” piece of plywood backer. Used my new router circle cutter to cut and spiral bit to cut the table top.

cuttingwalnutcircle

Used a downcut spiral bit to cut a slot for the skirt in the underside of the table top and then used a round over bit on the top of the table.

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Resawed slices of walnut to make the round skirt.

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Here is the fully routed table top and 1/8” veneer strips for the skirt

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Glued the skirt using Titebond III for more working time.

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Created an MDF form to create two halves of a circle to make the skirt. The form is just 1/4” smaller in diameter than the slot in the bottom of the table top. Thinner sheets of wood with more layers of glue hold shape better than thicker sheets with fewer layers of glue.

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Cleaned up the edges of the skirt with a block plane and card scraper.

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This fit the slot perfectly.

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Glued together a second circle half.

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Started finishing the table top and skirt.

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Cut 4 square legs to start with.

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Routed a 1/2” slot into the legs to fit over the skirt and then chiseled a curve and flattened out the top of the slot.

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Started to fit the legs on the skirt. Two legs hide the lap joints of the skirt.

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Created leg supports out of the corners cut off when making the table top.

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Fit the supports and legs to the skirt.

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Added brass inserts to the table top.

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Added brass inserts to the legs and decided to add a floating tenon for additional stability. it is glued only to the leg.

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Practiced cutting legs with a tapering jig.

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Created a few out of pine to see what would look good.

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Cut tapers in the walnut legs and stained everything.

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Applied Arm-R-Seal and completed final assembly.

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The skirt is floating and not glued in any way. The legs hold the skirt in the table top slot and the skirt helps hold the legs in place. The legs are held by one 1/4 20 SS screw and a floating tenon and the leg supports are held by two 1/4 20 SS screws.  It can be completely disassembled to 11 wood pieces and 12 SS screws.

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2017 Spring Wood Working Project Chest of Drawers

I wanted storage space for my RC Helicopter tools and parts for my office and couldn’t find anything that existed. This is the design I came up with and built.

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Here is the finished piece.

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OMGdone

Cut the drawer pieces out of 1/2 and 1/4” plywood. Routed the drawer sides with drawer lock bit and used a 1/4” rabbet on the bottom rather than a slot to conserve valuable vertical space.

GluingUpDrawers

Glued them up.

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Stacked drawers in a mockup of the final configuration with full extension slides as spacers.

drawersbuilt

Planed reclaimed red oak flooring to 1/2” and tongue and grooved the pieces so there was a 1/2” band at the top and bottom of each fascia board. This helped keep the boards true and they have remained extremely flat.

FasciaBoards

Glued up fascia boards.

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Stained.

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All of the drawers and fascia boards neatly stacked.  The black board on top was an experiment with reclaimed flooring that didn’t work well.

topdeckdone

Cut and banded 3/4” plywood with 3/4” red oak boards for the carcass.

bandingplywood

Created tongue and groove slots on the top, bottom, left and right panels that fit snuggly together perfectly square while dry.  During glue up they were tighter and required lots of rubber hammer and clamp pressure to pull them tight.

tonguegrooverouting

Decided to flock the top 4 smallest drawers that hold lots of small tools.

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Rough fit of everything.

roughtFit

Stained the housing black

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Glued the main enclosure together and used pocket screws for the center supports and mid horizontal surface.

staintouchup

Created wood tooling for mounting the drawer sliders.

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All drawers fitted

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Fitted and shimmed fascia boards, then marked holes and drilled holes for handles. These two screws also hold the fascia boards in place and allow for minor adjustments to get them aligned well.

drillinghandles

Cabinet is now complete.

firstsemifinishedlook

toolsflocked

2017 the year of the Woodworking bug

This is the year that the woodworking bug bit me hard!

My biggest limitation has been that my entire shop has to fit into a 6’ x 13’ area when I’m not using it. This means that EVERYTHING is on casters and that I take over the entire garage in various configurations as needed. Some tools like my planer sit on the floor and are not at an optimum height.

This is my shop area fit into the back of the garage with a stop sensor for my wife’s car.

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My work surfaces tend to be multi-use and collapsible. I built two folding tables that quickly attach to the front back and side of my table saw to act as 4’ long in feed, out feed, or side support tables.  But they only take up a 1’x2’ of floor space when I’m not using them.

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I built a rolling power tool bench / glue up table / storage unit that continues to evolve. It is not the perfect height for everything, but it works well enough.

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It also works as a glue-up table using Kreg Auto-Max clamps and an easily replaceable  not stick top.  It also has a large end vice and supports to hold a large piece of wood off the floor or level. 

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My clamp rack is a 2 stage ladder hung to the side wall. Notice another folding table against the wall.

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My other limitation is that I have only two 20A 120V circuits to work with. Technically I had one but I’m now sharing a circuit with the overhead lights which are now LED’s that sip power.  My dust collection system shares the circuit with the lights and a single power tool at a time runs off the other.

This has proven to be very workable and while it might be nice to have a seriously powerful table saw or band saw, so far it hasn’t kept me from doing anything.

There is only one tool missing and that is a jointer. Unfortunately I don’t see the point in a small jointer and I don’t have the room for a large jointer or have the power to run it so I just have to deal with limitations for now.

My work around for this has been hand planes which I have developed a real love for. They can handle figured wood as well as or better than a helical blade jointer. There is also something very satisfying about making fine shavings with a hand plane.

no6planer

A proper shooting board can create perfectly square ends. I built this shooting board based on Rob Cosman’s recommendations.
His video –> https://youtu.be/YyfvygylyJg

shootingboard

With the exception of my shooting board, I have never built anything based on plans or someone else’s design. I enjoy designing things that I can’t buy. The fun part about wood working is that there is always a new technique to learn and then find a created way to apply.

I recently designed and built this walnut table for my front foyer. The specific need was to replace a square table with something that had no room for a cat to sit and eat the leaves. He cried a bit, but it was a success.  I also learned how to make a circular form, laminate hardwood, cut tapered legs, use a circle jig and build a loose tenon support system for the legs. Other than a single glue seam on the table top there is no glue holding the skirt or legs on and it can be completely disassembled into eleven parts.

inplace_2366

Smaller Charger ( one more time )

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This is the last one finished in November 2016 . I still had the 2 x PL8’s and a 1kW PS  from my first too heavy to carry charger build and I wanted to be able to use them. This is a very simple rugged and lightweight package.

I started with a cardboard mockup.

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Then moved to a wooden prototype

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Then I moved to ABS and screwed into UHMW blocks.

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Finally it joined my last Charging Tower and is what I continue to use today.

I still have the battery storage unit from the first build, but I don’t use it often because of it’s size.

ThreeGenerations

Frequently before I head to the airfield I’ll charge a bunch of batteries running both chargers.
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Charging Station Reprise (with BUMP controller)

Finished1

A couple years back I built an over-engineered charging station with battery storage that was worked, but in practice was too heavy and cumbersome.

Last year I went in a different direction. I wanted light, simple and twice the charging capacity.

I started with 2 x Dual PL8’s,  4 x MPA boards and a Meanwell 2kW 48V PS.

plywoodPrototype2

The Meanwell charger is quiet with a variable speed fan and has power factor correction to help minimize the load on my generator at the airfield.

I had pre-ordered a BUMP controller in October that arrived January 30th, so I started without it and just used a cardboard placeholder.

plywoodPrototype9

The MPA boards Velcro to the sideboards that connect both horizontally and vertically.

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This year I decided to go for a stained finish. I used a gray stain and urethane top coat.

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donebuild3

BumpInUse


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