DesignSpark – Easy to Use CAD

DSM Shelves with Dimensionsxx.png

DesignSpark Mechanical is an Easy to Use CAD tool. I’ve done a few hours research over the past few days to figure out a quick to use FREE CAD tool that can be used to draw wood working projects and dimension them to produce drawings for building home projects.

As you may know from my site, I’m a long time user of 3D Art software including 3DSMax and Carrara. But these are expensive. Even Carrara costs more than $250.

I’ve looked at FreeCAD, Blender and a host of others. But the idea is to find something free that’s as easy to get going as possible and allows you to produce drawings with dimensions. There is no doubt that FreeCAD, and Blender can do this, but FreeCAD is quirky – at least for me – and Blender has a very high initial learning curve and no dimension tool built in. There may be plug-ins for that, but that is more learning curve.

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LED Lighting for Alienware Case?

I’m sick of not having lighting for my Alienware Area-51 and Alienware Aurora cases. They work part of the time but can’t be easily controlled. The lighting is Proprietary and out of date. Alienware and later DELL made no effort to support the lighting with Windows 10 or Linux. These are what the two cases look like with lighting on:

That is the Area 51 circa 2006 with blue lighting in the vents and Alien Heads on sides and front. The Front Alien head is the power button.

And that’s the Alien Aurora R2 in Blue and Red lighting. The Front Alien Head opens the access door for the media drives. The power button is a hidden button behind the head on the top of the case.

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Snifter Drying Rack

I need a rack to dry and store brandy snifters. So I made one. The snifters are 3″ in diameter with a 2.5″ base. I didn’t see anything like this online.

The project uses light weight plywood and a 1″ dowel 5″ long. Here is the plan for the top and the base. The top and base are 6″ square. I used a forstner bit to drill the holes and a scroll saw to cut out the slots.

Snifter Layout_1.png

Walnut stain, Poly varnish, and felt feet on the bottom complete the project.


Dustopper Is Much Better

Dust Deputy Cyclone Separator

A while back I bought and hooked up a Dust Deputy to the shop vac that I have been using to clean my pellet stove. The Dust Deputy is an after market DIY cyclone separator. And for what you get it’s pretty pricey.

The kit I got comes with two 5 gallon buckets and a hose along with the separator. But it required some ABS pipe, glue and some work to get it hooked up to the shop vac that I’d been using. Turns out that hose diameters are no where near standard on these vacuums of course. But I’ve got it going and have not had to clean the vacuum filter in over a year. I have emptied the 5 gallon bucket once in that time. But Wait There’s More. A Better Solution has arrived.

Home Depot Dustopper

The Dustopper from Home Depot is a much better solution. And Cheaper.

The left picture shows the Home Depot picture for this use of this device. Clearly a mess since you are dragging two separate canisters around your shop or other area as you clean it. That’s gotta be a pain. On the right we see a fellow who has designed a simple modification for a Ridgid vacuum to hold the Dustopper together with the vacuum. Takes less floor space and moves as one unit.

Clearly this is what I should have done. And I may yet do this.

I still cannot understand why Ridgid or some other shop vacuum company, Dyson even, has not just made a vacuum with a cyclone separator built into it. Why these nonsense add-ons? Is Dyson holding a patent that keeps others from doing it, but is not doing it themselves? Dyson does not make a vacuum suitable for cleaning shop areas after all this time.


Dice Tower Design

So, apparently, Dice Towers are a thing.

There are many Dice Tower design / construction videos on Youtube. Here are a couple of pictures from some I found. The problem with these designs is that they are made from foam. The one on the left is made with a foam core / glue gun construction with EPS foam blocks then cut and glued on. While the paint job is very cool, the light foam board construction is going to sound silly when you toss in the dice. The one on the right uses EPS foam blocks glued around a vase and a spiral ramp of foam core inside to bounce the dice around. Again, this one will just sound silly as it’s used.

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Dyson V7 is Old News

I called Dyson recently to get some attachments for my Ancient DC 44 portable vacuum, and they offered me a special price on a Dyson V7. Now I get why. And I’m not unhappy, but also not surprised. The latest model is V10, so they want to dump those old V7’s they still have in the warehouse, apparently. My DC 44 is old enough that someday I’ll need a new battery and those are expensive, so I was hedging my bets by taking the V7 deal.

The V7 has some new attachments and a more convenient latch for them. Instead of having to use two hands, you can remove the attachments with one hand. How cool, and how obvious.

I got the V7 “Motorhead” which came with a wide floor motorized brush, straight extension, combo brush and crevice tool. In addition, a few days later a package arrived with the “Up Top” bending tool, the angle brush and the extension hose, probably due to having done automatic registration or something.

Anyway, the V7 is very cool. Easier to empty, with even more cyclone thingies and more powerful suction.

I have allergies, and Dyson’s allow me to clean the house without sneezing since nothing gets by those cyclones. I have an old pre-ball model for the floors and portables for dusting. No rags for me to dust. If you have allergies, you might like to try a Dyson.


Flir C2 Thermal Camera

I’ve been wanting a Thermal Camera for a while and finally got around to doing some research and the Flir C2 seemed to be a good one to start with. It has the option to take a normal light picture with the thermal image. Once charged up and with the settings changed for F rather than C, here are some pics to start with.

Should be an interesting tool.

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New Internet Service


Just switched to Spectrum 400mbps service. It’s great. 400 mbps down, 20 mbps up. And I hear a rumor that they are going to provide 1 Gbps service soon. My YouTube posts now complete in a reasonable time. Fibre comes to my street and the last 100 yards or so is coax. My service is about $70 / month for internet alone.

Check out your options here if Spectrum is in your area.

Not a paid endorsement, just a happy customer. The installation procedure is much more modern and up to date with Spectrum than with the local phone company, that is still operating with hand typed username / passwords to configure DSL modem. The Spectrum modem configure operation was a photo shot of the bar codes on the router into the installer’s mobile phone with their special app, and away we go in seconds. The local phone company has no plans for faster service, in spite of the fact that my house is only a little farther away from their fibre head end box.

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New Bedroom Reading Light

A long time ago I made a reading lamp using compact fluorescent bulbs.

This is the old one. It still works fine, but it has two issues. It only has one brightness and the Fluorescent bulbs take a few minutes to “warm up” and come to full brightness. This lamp is made with three 75 watt equivalent Compact Florescent bulbs. That may seem light a lot of light, but it’s directed at the ceiling, not directly at the book.

The design is very simple – a panel about 1 by 2 feet held at 45 degrees with the wall and direct the light to the ceiling. This creates enough light to read a book in bed with no glare or harsh light as you read.

Here’s the new version:

This new version is made with LED Halogen replacements from Ranpo Lighting and sockets from MyLampParts.

The lamps are found here.

The sockets are found here.

Since no dimmable LED lamps are available in this form factor, the design allows using 1, 2 or 3 bulbs for three levels of brightness. Two switches are used to turn on 1 and the other 2 of the three lamps.

Also, hot glue works very well for insulation for the soldered connections in the lamp cord. It’s good to use lots of the glue so that it won’t loosen and fall off over time.