Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Floor joist

I have an idea about building a floor joist that would look super cool from below. 

2x6 in the middle sandwiched with a 2x4 on each side, and then a 2x2 on each side of that. Screwed and wood glued it would be the equivalent of a joist that was like a foot wide, the arch/stair step structure taking the load down to bottom of the main beam. 

Best part is that these beams  could be pieced together, the main beam with two bolts with washers and nuts pulling the board together at the top and the bottom.  The 2x4 and 2x2 could just be lapped, as long as no seams lined up within about a foot.  Also lower grade would can be used, as long as bottom edge is free of knots.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Building a tiny home.

In the next few months I am going to build the shell of my first tiny home. Going to keep this first one simple. More of a cabin than anything else.

The building will be built in phases, due to not having enough resources, time and money, to do it all at once.


Phase 1

Phase 1 has two steps

First step is to build an 8x12 mini-house to securely live in while I build.  This is also going to be a scale model of the actual cabin. 

I decided to go with  a gothic arch structure because it was more efficient and pretty.  I was able to use less material and save money but it took more time and skill to build.

Because the wall is thicker it will be insulated better. The top will have at least 2 feet of insulation, but it will only be 3 feet wide.  Much of the rafter is hollow,  it won't thermally transfer as much heat.

Because the top is so narrow, there is half the air volume to heat or cool, and a single ceiling fan should rapidly circulate the air. The top will also be rounded.

The roof is too steep to hold snow and rain will run off easily.  The curve will reflect away solar rays better, resulting in less heat being transfered into the structure.

A curve is much stronger than a strait edge. Any wind that hits the curve gets deflected up rather than catching like it would on a normal wall. 

Built the form for the rafters on the platform.
There is one almost ready to remove. 
The stack slowly but surely accumulated over 2 weekends.
Fixed a crack in a board.
Had to fix an arch.
I put together one side by myself.
Had to get a second person to help me set it up.
Held in place with a board on each side.  Fastened at the bottom of all rafters.
Added a rafter to each side to tilt the ridge board to correct angle.
All 7 in place, just as the battery ran out of power.
People have told me several times that it looks like a church.
Side view.
Pretty view.
Tarped it until I have the resources to put real plywood sheeting on it in the middle of next month. There is also a giant X in the middle of the building to brace the structure end to end. The arches seem to make it amazingly strong side to side.  A friend was there during a powerful wind storm and he said the building didn't budge at all.
Ladder is sitting on the 8x8 shed floor that I am going to build this coming weekend.

After a recent storm.  A swing and a miss. 

I keep getting asked what plans I used... didn't use any.  I just winged it and built it how I felt it should be.

I found some improved bolts to use to replace a bunch of wood screws.  They use special bits that won't strip out like the Phillips I have been using so far. These bolts are like 10 times sturdier than wood screws.  Putting them at the base of every rafter and they go through the rafter, through the side board, and into the 2x8 boards that go from side to side.

Second step of phase 1 is to build a more conventional 8x8 storage shed with a barn style roof. :D  This is my plan on downsizing.  Whatever doesn't fit in the storage unit, gets tossed.

Tried building the 8x8 storage shed base from 2x4's, but it was way too flexible and bouncy. I think it would have eventually broke.
So I rebuilt the floor joists with 2x6's and then put three 2x4's across the other direction. I notched the center joist and the 2x4's and the base became very solid.
Moved to almost the final location.  After seeing the area after heavy rain, I need to move it 10 feet further back to get out of a swampy area.

If you look just past the little tarped building, to the left, you can see the giant maple tree that the storm took.

Step 3 of phase 1

This step will be to put t1-11 siding around the 8x8 building and around the

 Phase 2

Second phase is to build the full home.  Thinking of scaling up the Gothic arch structure with an overhead area.  Using metal roofing for the side.


Collect rain water from all buildings with roofs. store water in tank below house.  Slowly pump through a

Collect  all the grey water in an aerated tank, the extra oxygen in the water helps stop anaerobic bacterial action and prevent odor.  Use this water to water crops.


Tall, continuous operation compost heap. Brick or concrete block,surrounded by insulation. Southern facing single pane windows allow the sun to heat the composting brick. Curtains close at night, or on cloudy days to hold heat in. 

Top of composing system will accept input and the processed soil will be shoveled from an access door.

Washing machine. 

Tiny washing machine. $85 on ebay.

Got one and have been using it for 4 months now.  Works perfectly.


Super insulated energy efficient.


Solar panels charge  a couple of marine batteries. Battery pack will keep things powered.  

The main energy draw day to day will be a solar powered fridge and freezer.


Solar water heating for shower.  Backup on cold days?  Copper tubing on rocket mass wood stove.

Buying small fridge and super insulating it.

Data connection and local network. 

DSL data conneciton.   VPN preserves data privacy against ISP and government spying.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


If you have been thinking about building a tiny home for a while you have probably also been thinking that it would be easy to live off the grid with such a home.

We love to hear people's stories about how they sized their solar panels, assembled all the parts and talk about how it all goes together.  Knowing what to look for, and what worked and did not work for other people is a big help on our own projects.

What makes this project interesting is how far North it is, and that the project was built on the ground instead of mounting the panels on the roof.  This is important in Canada because of the snow loads. 

We have covered many different sized solar projects before. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Google home mini

So, this December, I bought a Chromecast, 2 Home Minis, a cardboard voice aiy kit, and voice controlled light bulbs and outlets.  I first set up the Chromecast on a 29" TV. Because this is what came first in the mail.  I had to install Google Home app on a phone to configure the Chromecast.

I used bubble upnp on a pad computer to cast movies from my osmc raspi3 media player.  I figured out that I had to scan the files on the player before they would show up in upnp.

Once the Coral Home Mini showed up I used the Home app to configure it and it automatically configured the Home Mini to tie to the Chromecast.  As soon as I did that I was able to tell the home mini to play videos from youtube onto the chromecast.

The next step was adding the home automation light bulb and powered outlets. I had to install another app to make that work.  Once those were working I was able to add them to google home mini, confirming them with the cloud server.

The disappointing thing is that a couple of projects to tie into local home automation hubs, so people could build their own diy hardware, were killed by google so that the hubs now check with a cloud server before they will show up to google home.

I was also able to configure my cell phone number into google home, and that lets me use the google home mini to call out to regular phones, for free.


The Google  Voice AIY kit was easy to set up.  Just add a raspberry pi zero and a power supply and follow the directions.  I set it up to run as a service and it allowed the device to restart when it crashed.  Which it does a lot.  

One thing I couldn't figure out is why it didn't start up when I took it to work and plugged the box in.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Upgrading Makerbot Replicator 2 Build Platform to Glass

I recently had to repair my acrylic build platform after I broke it trying to fix a wild curve to the material that had grown worse with time.  Even with the extra couple of mm of material I printed to the center of the acrylic sheet, there was still a noticeable bow. 

I got it working just well enough that I was able to print a glass frame for my Replicator 2 that I found here.   Here it is, clipped in place.  It lost about a mm front and back from the bow in my old build plate.

Unfortunately they didn't have 3/16 glass in town, so I went with thicker instead of thinner, and got a 6.5 x 11.25 x 1/4" glass plate.  They took the edges off and only charged me $10.   There it is sitting on my desk at work.  I got it done at lunch time and it was killing me to wait the rest of the day to get home and try it out.

There it is in all it's glory.  I used some Sugru to affix the platform to the next frame I built.  

You can see how it sits a little high.  Unfortunately I only took off 1mm when I scaled it, instead of about 1.5mm.  Going to print it one more time and try to get it right.  May go ahead and mod it for the missing little bit of space.  Once I get it done I will upload it to thingiverse with a nod towards the creator.

The prints this machine makes now are amazing. I had just figured out how to get a glossy print by printing on packing tape with my old build platform and also using diluted, dried glue stick on the surface. Now I just need the glue stick and a good bed leveling before a big build.

Here is what it looks like before and after.  It is a night and day difference, and remember, just a few days before this not one of my prints ever came off the machine with a gloss finish.

Here is another.

One side effect that I did not expect, is that the inside of the print is twice as smooth using glass rather than the plastic build plate.

I am calling this a win and wish I had upgraded years ago. It is a little upsetting that the glass plate was not the default on an expensive printer.

I am not going to recommend this upgrade for everyone, but if you want to give it a try, what harm is there in printing one part and spending 10 or 20 bucks for a plate of glass?  Especially when the results are like having a much newer, and much better 3D printing machine.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Octoprint on Raspberry Pi works for Makerbot Replicator2 now.

Could not get Makerware to work on the latest Debian installation.  I installed windows and the Makerware software onto a tiny computer I had. I used NoMachine on this computer and a couple of other computers and pad computers to run the Makerware software.

The next weekend I saw that someone had made a plugin to translate between g-code and whatever it is that my Replicator uses.

Installed Octoprint on a micro SD card and put it in a Raspberry Pi 2 B+.
Plugged the card, USB cable, power, and network cable into the PI.
Once the lights stopped flashing, I found out the IP address using my router.
Typed the IP address into a router.
It took longer to come up the first time because on first boot it expanded the hard drive partition to fill up the SD card.

I had to add the GPX plug in and set it up for my model printer.

Then I had to install Cura on my Debian box, configure Cura for my printer, set up a profile for printing with 2 brims.  I tried printing with a raft, but couldn't get the raft off my prints no matter how I set it up.  Saved this profile, went into the setup for the Cura slicer on the Octopi, and uploaded this profile into the Cura module.

Only once this profile is uploaded can you begin to slice and print. When you upload an STL file you get an option to select this profile (or other profiles you also upload) and then you can do nothing, select it, or select it and print it.

Second step was adding a camera.  Found out that the raspberry pi cameras have to have the lenses unscrewed to focus that close, which involves breaking loose some glue holding the lens in place.  I broke one camera, so be careful.  Important note, unplug the tiny little connector before you try this, and then carefully plug it back in afterwards.  Thinking of making a jig so that this process is fool proof.   This is some good info on the whole process of modding raspberry pi cameras.  Found a spanner to make this easy, if you own a 3D printer, or know someone with one. Print two of them.

Just plugging in the camera and booting the raspberry pi I got a good picture under the control tab.  I clipped a lens adapter onto the lens and got a better picture, had to unscrew the lens to get a good focus.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fixing makerbot replicator 2 acrylic build plate.

Having problems getting a good print out of your old makerbot replicator?  If yours is like mine the build plate is so warped that anything you print will stick too hard in places and not stick at all in other places.
A disclaimer, this fix worked for me, have no idea if it will work for anyone else. For all I know it might break your build plate in half or do something equally awful. I had to fix a jam during this process because my warpage was so amazingly great that it wrapped about a foot of filament all around the inside of my extruder. You have been warned!
My acrylic build plate had warped over the years. So I tried standing on it to straiten it out and snapped it in half. With the makerware software I could make a good print using a raft. But when I switched to cura on octopi the raft was stuck hard to the prints. I tried putting packing tape down on top of the raft and that did work.
Then I had a thought. Why not print a raft just once covering the entire build plate, permanently attached to the surface of my broken build plate? Then I could print anything and it would come right off. And it worked!
Just clean your build plate and level it as well as you can. Then print the thin8.stl onto the plate with no raft. If your warpage is really bad you might want to try printing a few smaller shapes in the center or around the outside edge depending on your warpage to get the plate in the ballpark so that this will even work. Try to get it to stick as well as you can because ideally it will be the level surface you print on here on out. The first few layers might not evenly cover, because of build plate warpage. And I had to clear out a filament jam in the extruder motor section because of how much my plate was warped up on each corner.
Once the build of the new surface was complete, I covered the surface with packing tape, overlapping it slightly. I put glue stick down on this, lightly, mixed it with a few drops of water and made sure it covered the area where I am going to print. You also have to move the bed down a bit because this new surface is higher than the old surface, by loosening the thumb screws under the bed, and then just move the head around and use the thumb screws and your eyeball to get the tip of the nozzle just to the surface of the bed. Turning the thumb screws left lowers the bed, turning right raises the bed.

I print with a couple of brims and manually adjust the thumb screws as the brim is being laid down making sure that the filament is flat, not round, but not too flat. The brim should be even clear around the print.
My prints now come out with a shiny surface where it was against the packing tape and they just pull off by hand with just a bit of effort.
When I was able to just pull the print off by hand with just a little tug, I almost cried because of the trauma I have endured over the years stabbing myself with razors and putty knives trying to remove prints.