I’m cheap

Hey look what I made…

I mentioned previously that I was working on a project for my side hustle, but didn’t say what it was.

This is it. It’s a 32×32 px LED matrix, battery, and supporting electronics.

The first purpose will be a time trial start clock. (This shows the countdown for each person leaving the start house) CrossMgr, the software I use for timing, publishes information for the start clock over a WebSocket connection to drive a web version of the start clock. I wrote a python script that slurps that data and drives the LED matrix, counting down the time, as well as the bib number who’s next to roll out.

The project combined a bunch of stuff. Software, obviously. Electronics, as I integrated a bunch of random stuff including the LED matrix, a Raspberry Pi, voltage regulator, battery, buzzer, cooling… I 3D Printed the mounts for the boards. I built the box (from scrap wood!) that holds it all.

Considering a commercial version of this is a grand or more, I like this version.

My take on a balance board

As I mentioned in this post, I decided to go big and made my first project a balance board based on the one shown in this video:

My hardwood collection is nil, but my parents had a piece of mahogany that I was able to trim and saw down to act as the inlay, making my colors a bit different.

I started with a Fusion360 model of the board (as one does). Using Illustrator, I used the PDF plan that is linked from the video to get the general shape imported into a sketch. That plan is based on one side, then flipped and traced onto the other side, but I wanted to have the full model to work with. Using the shape from the original template, I cleaned up the ends (rounding off the nose and adjusting the radius of the tail), and added the inlays based on the spacing mentioned in the video. Here’s the finished model:

Once I had the full model, I put the top view on a drawing at 1:1 scale, exported as a PDF, and then used Illustrator to print it 1:1 across 12 sheets of paper (or was it 15?). Add some kindergarten tape and scissor skills, some Super 77, and you’ve got a template on the plywood to follow with the jigsaw.

I think this was a fairly complicated project for my first jump back in, mainly because of the inlays. Even when I did projects with my Dad as a kid, I had never used a router before, and now I was making several fairly precise cuts (as well as the round over, but that was fairly straight forward).

I did a rough cut around the template, then went back with the scroll blade to clean it up as best I could (foreshadowing). I went back with the router to cut the inlays, still using the template to align my guide board, then used a chisel to clean them up after removing the template. A couple of the inlay cuts are funny looking at the peak, but I’m fairly happy with how they came out.

The inlays were cut from some mahogany my father had in his scrap bin. Starting with a 1″x1.5″x24″ piece, I ripped that in half, then cleaned them up to just over a half inch wide. I cut these two pieces down to 3/16″ strips on the band saw (the router depth was set to 1/8″), then went home. At home I used my home made miter jig (foreshadowing, again) to cut the inlays to rough size, sanding to fit.

(Popping the foreshadowing stack, when I cut my jig my saw blade drifted and so the angles were all slightly less than 45 degrees. Oops.)

Once I had the inlays laid out, I went back and glued them down, threw some cauls on top, then let it sit for the night.

After the glue dried, I went at the inlays with my block plane to try to knock them down to level. My plane is dull. Very dull. Dull enough that I ended up making a mess in a couple spots.

Next I used a 1/4″ round over bit along the top and bottom of the plywood. I can’t believe how unforgiving that bit was to my crappy jigsaw job. I also had some tear out of one of the inlays. To clean this up I spent some time with a rasp and made the edges nice and smooth. Adjusting the depth of the round over bit (I had it too shallow during the first pass) and doing another round made it look much nicer.

The mahogany had some bug holes, and I needed to clean up the mess I made with the block plane, so I used wood filler. Surprise, the wood filler I got is a very pine colored blonde. Looks excellent on mahogany, and not much better on the plywood.

Anywho, I sanded the whole thing up to 220, then used two coats of wipe on poly to finish it. It was only after the second coat of poly that I remembered that I needed to put blocks on the bottom to keep it from skipping off the pipe, so I made those. I didn’t trust the glue to bond well to where I had already finished, so these also got some screws to make sure they hold (they’re on the underside so I figured that was acceptable) and a coat of poly.

A couple things I’d do differently:

  • I need to sharpen my poor, abused, plane.
  • A belt sander would have helped significantly in cleaning up the inlays, and I could probably have used that to clean up the edge, although the rasp worked quite well and was satisfying.
  • Chisel skills need work (aka, more than the no skills I have right now!)
  • Wood filler needs color!
  • And, generally, I’d love to have a redo on the fit and finish of the inlay. I think I did pretty well for my first time, but version 2 is always better than version 1.