Pounding Stones and Flying Drones at Crystal Grove

My wife and I had the pleasure of getting the camper trailer out for a weeklong end of summer vacation. Our destination was Crystal Grove Campground and Diamond mine in St. Johnsville, NY. We shared two exciting and fun days smashing stones to discover Herkimer diamonds. Finding the beautiful crystals was easy with a little experience and practice. Evan and Cecily are hospitable hosts and go above and beyond to ensure everyone is enjoying themselves.

I had an opportunity to fly my Hubsan X4 drone around the area. Having so much open space and sky to soar around is liberating! I collected some of the video footage I recorded from the drone and assembled a [somewhat shaky] video. Our poodle Fleur is oblivious about the thing buzzing around her head. I added a rocking Nightwish tune to add drama to the flight.

One night we found ourselves with too little time to prepare dinner at the camp. We drove into St Johnsville and stopped in Cosmo’s Bar & Grill for some takeout burgers and wings. I felt at home chatting with the bartender Mike and Speedy the local patron. Chris the chef invited Fleur to hang out back with his dog Bronx. The food was off the charts delicious. All in all it was an enjoyable visit. We hope to return to the area for more fun in the near future.

Longs Park Arts and Crafts Festival

longs park arts and crafts festival

Today, Friday, Sept 4 2015 kicks off the Longs Park Arts and Crafts festival in Lancaster PA. The event showcases over 200 artists and craftspeople from across the country. On Sunday Sept 6 I will attend the festival to explore and also lend a hand to my woodworking friends at JD Lohr Arts & Crafts Furniture & Woodworking School. In other words, I’ll be helping pack up at the end of the event.

I’ve been fortunate to attend three woodworking courses the JD Lohr School of Woodworking offers and I consider Jeffry and instructors family. In the near future I plan on returning to the school to retake the Advanced Joinery class to make another nightstand. Can’t I make another nightstand at home? Yes, but it wouldn’t be nearly as fun as a week at the school. Time shared at the school is a wonderful vacation.

Robert Spiece is an instructor and “second in command” at the school. I have the extreme privilege of owning a few pieces of his custom furniture. Beautiful work. Because Rob was thoughtful enough to share a free ticket to the festival and I had some time on my hands, I carved a representation of Rob as a token of thanks. Thanks Rob for the ticket, thanks for trusting me to load the truck, thanks for the beautiful furniture and thanks for making woodworking fun.

How to catch a pet parakeet / budgie on the loose outside

how to catch a pet parakeet

During the last week of July a blue parakeet, or budgie, began eating at our backyard birdfeeder. It was immediately clear this bird was a pet on the run. My wife Amy scanned the local Facebook pages and learned nobody reported a missing bird. Days later she posted photos I took of the beauty on Facebook and a few parties expressed interest in the bird. A neighbor loaned us a cage to assist in the capture.

I placed the bird cage on our brick patio with the guillotine door facing the bird feeder and stacked two bricks on top of each other to make an impromptu staircase to the door. A piece of fishing line was connected to the top of the door, routed over a few impromptu pulleys and through the screen of our kitchen window. The line was pulled taunt keeping the cage door lifted up. Inside our home the terminus end of the line was tied to a rack near the window. Cut the line and the door drops.

Day after day we watched the budgie eat the seed from the ground, repeatedly circling the cage. A week passed and I watched, in shock, as our friend pecked his way onto the bricks leading to the cage door. Is this really happening? He poked his head into the cage, noticed the food tray and hopped in! From inside my home I cut the string and “Wham!” the cage door dropped trapping the feathered fugitive inside.

Hours later Amy delivered the budgie to a new home. We wish many years of enjoyment to the family.

Repair broken NRG Digital Table Warmer 231-0293

repair broken nrg digital table warmer 231-0293

A quality massage table is very important to my wife Amy, a massage therapist. Many clients find the warmth of an electronic table warmer beneficial for various reasons. Enter the NRG Digital Table Warmer 231-0293 found “on sale” for $70+ dollars. Amy purchased one of these pads; it lasted six months before the controller crapped out and died. She purchased another, stored the extra pad and plugged the new controller into the original pad. Give it about six months and that controller bit the dust as well.

Always curious with electronic stuff I took apart a controller to inspect for a blown replaceable fuse. I didn’t find any. I poked around a few of the components with my meter to test continuity, it all checked out. I sent one of the broken controllers to my electronics expert friend Charlie. He found a blown thermal fuse positioned under a resistor on the circuit board enclosed by a glob of thermal compound. When the resistor reaches a temperature above 76 degrees Celsius the fuse trips and permanently shuts down the controller. RIP.

Both Charlie and I went to work locating the manufacturer of the thermal fuse Set Fuse (www.setfuse.com), the Model Number is K0. We reached out to the very enthusiastic and helpful sales department and a week later Charlie received the fuses direct from China. He replaced the fuse and returned the controller to me. I unpacked the box, removed the controller and dashed to the massage table. With the controller attached to the pad I plugged the controller in and Voila! The controller turned on like new.

I possess the remaining replacement fuses and I’m looking forward to repairing the other blown controller. While I have the second controller disassembled I plan on measuring the temperature of the resistor while the unit is functioning to examine how close to the cutoff temperature the resistor becomes. Hopefully the new thermal cutoffs last longer than six months each. At best we extended the life of these otherwise perfectly good objects, keeping them out of the landfill for now.

Kalalau Trail Topographic Map and Backpacking Tips

lalalau trail topographic map and backpacking tips

Some of you may recall my wife and I hiked the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast of Kauai, Hawaii the last week of May 2015. When I was planning the trip I searched high and low for a good map of the Kalalau Trail with no success. The first complete map I found of the trail was in the parking lot at the trail head. I took a photo of the map and used the map on my camera screen while we were on the trail.

I brought the photo of the map home and digitally cleaned up the artwork in Photoshop. I added a few tips and hints regarding what I learned about parking safely and good places to camp along the way. I’ve done my very best to match the map at the trail head. To my recollection this map reflects what I experienced during my backpacking adventure on the Kalalau Trail.

I am sharing this map to help plan your adventure. The above image is only a small section of the complete map. Please remember, I am not a cartographer and I cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information.

Kalalau Trail Complete: 24 MB: (1) 21″ x 9″ page
Kalalau Trail 3 Pages: 16 MB: (3) 8.5″ x 11″ pages

Rustic LED Firefly Lamp Wedding Reception Table Centerpiece

rustic led firefly lamp wedding reception table centerpiece

Last Friday my niece Nicole was married. When I first heard about the wedding my brain went to work thinking of the various things I can make for table centerpieces. The first idea was to harvest white birch bark to create cylindrical candle covers with heart shaped windows. The first problem facing me with this plan was it was the middle of winter, not the appropriate time to harvest bark from living trees.

The next idea was to cut small sections of tree branches and somehow transform them into candle holders. Vertically standing sections were not stable enough for my satisfaction. The last thing I wanted was to have tall candles falling over on the tables at the reception. Instead I decided to plane a flat side on the branch to lay the wood horizontally on the table. I carved a recess in the wood to hold a tea candle. The result is in the photo above.

My favorite part of the centerpieces were the LED firefly lamps I designed. I built 15 hollow wooden boxes to act as a bases and to hide two AA batteries. Rising from the center of each base is a small steel rod to support the shade and yellow flickering LED arrays I soldered together. The randomly flickering LED lights cast distorted circles on the shade, creating the illusion of fireflies or a gentle fire. A florist provided beautiful and unique floral arrangements to compliment the centerpiece as a whole.

2490 Drawings Inspired by Keaton Henson – To Your Health

This animation was inspired by the music of Keaton Henson and Elizabeth Harrod’s beautiful dance performance in the To Your Health video. The animation consists of 2490 4″ x 3″ Sharpie drawings on paper drafted over the course of six months. No drawing appears twice in the sequence.

This animation was a personal project to challenge my patience, technical know-how and artistic skills. I decided to tackle the project during December 2014. After a few test sequences I calculated the project to be complete in June 2015. That calculation was based on each frame taking fifteen seconds to draw; that calculation was not accurate. Many of the intricate drawings required upwards of four minutes to complete. Also, as can be expected, many drawings needed to be redrawn for various reasons.

Thanks to my friend Charlie England for simplifying the process of photographing the individual drawings. Charlie engineered an automated camera shutter and light controller specifically for the task. With one button press several photographs were taken of each drawing with various lighting configurations. These variations provided compositing versatility when assembling the animation on the computer.

I worked on this project on the train during my commute, on the couch in front of the TV, on my Hawaiian vacation and any other place I found to sit to work. The task was relaxing and, for the most part, induced a calm state of mind. My imagination was permitted to wander while my eyes and hands were focused on the task of drawing. While creating this project I learned more than I imagined about drawing, anatomy and motion.

Hawaiian Inspiration.

Bikini Blone Lager

Amy and I have recently returned from two weeks on the Hawaiian Islands: Oahu, Big Island, Maui and Kauai. Although we kept a fast paced schedule, we found time to relax and enjoy the sights, sounds and sensations Hawaii offers. On the Big Island we had the pleasure listening to Kai Hoopii play ukulele while singing Hawaiian falsetto during a performance at Volcano National Park. I recorded the show and in time I plan to prepare the recording for download. I did find time for a few creative endeavors. I painted a few watercolors and I worked on a much larger ongoing project (more on that in future posts).

While driving in Kauai we picked up a hitchhiker. To our surprise our passenger turned out to be Donny Pike of the classic vocal group The Lettermen. As if that brush with fame wasn’t enough we also learned of a secret surprise Neil Young concert that evening in Paia. Amy and I decided to stand in line and take our chances since our lodging was across the street. In short we waited four hours, didn’t get in the venue but made new friends. We did have a chance to watch through the windows and listen in the parking lot. Which was pretty cool anyway.

I had a great time appreciating the local art and wooden tiki carvings. The luau at Kilohana Plantation was a lot of fun. The open bar and buffet provided a solid foundation to enjoy the (touristy) program of singing and dancing. The great people at Kauai Backcountry Adventures hooked us up with a fun day of tubing and zip lining. For me, the highlight of the trip was hiking the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali coast. The dramatic scenery and strenuous trail is spectacular. All in all Hawaii was a great time.

WAYRA time-lapse wood carving inspired by Fuerza Bruta & F5 Fest

I had the awesome opportunity to attend F5 Fest located at Terminal 5 in New York City on April 17 -18. The fun and inspiring festival provides an opportunity to relax, rub elbows with designer/animators and enjoy motion graphics, the on-location bar provided much liquid inspiration.

Admission to the F5 Fest included tickets to experience Fuerza Bruta Wayra. If you haven’t attended this off-Broadway production drop what you’re doing and go. Spoiler Alert: some action takes place above your head. This wood carving was inspired by an inverted man wearing a neck tie. The distortion of perspective (and a day of fun) created an unforgettable memory.

The basswood carving required about seven hours to complete. The time-lapse video is seven minutes long, each minute roughly representing an hour of carving time. Carving this piece was just as fun as the inspiration. Now I want to carve more!

ElectroCallioBreeze – For Greater Newark Maker Faire April 11 2015

[09.19.2018 There used to be a video demonstration here. I deleted it from YouTube and I’ll replace it when I locate the file]

The ElectroCallioBreeze is the product of several years of occasional experimentation. This contraption has been on my mind for some time. Preparing an exhibit for the Greater Newark Maker Faire was enough reason to invest resources to the project. My sister Suzanne acquired the xylophone at an estate sale a while ago and it sat on a shelf in my workshop reminding, er inspiring, me until now.

If the cogs were directly attached to the propeller shaft the melody would play too fast, sounding like a Wayne’s World dissolve. To slow the rotation of the cogs I created a second shaft with a belt across two different sized wooden gears. With that mechanism complete I experimented with various cogs to trigger the hammers.

Happy with the belt, gears, cogs and hammers I tested and experimented with the electrical continuity across the cogs and hammers. I consulted with electronics genius friend Charlie to insure I wasn’t going to ruin any of my electronic gizmos by attaching them to the mechanism. With a thumbs-up from Charlie I attached various gizmos to hear what would happen.

This video is of my first full-scale test of the project. Following recording the video I made several adjustments and additions for more reliable functionality. One of the additions is bushings between the hammers to prevent them from walking sideways and missing their target. After disconnecting everything I realized I had a few more noisy gizmos I wanted to attach as well. Perhaps I’ll bring the new sounds with me to the Maker Faire Saturday April 11.