A Saturday Project

One advantage to having a brother-in-law visit for the weekend (especially one who is both an architect and has extensive experience with fabrication) is that you can ask him to help you with a project and it will get done quickly.

This weekend, Paul and I built a workbench for my office. It has been on my list of things to do since we moved in and the need for a workbench (for computer work) has only increased since we moved into the house over a month ago.

I laid out my needs and he promptly came up with a plan in his head. Impressive. So we went to pick up the needed supplies:

  • 2″x4″ studs (twelve)
  • 49″x93″ high-density fiberboard sheet
  • 1lb 2 1/2″ #8 all-purpose screws
  • Phillips head bits (two)
  • #8 tap

All of that for under $100 and we were set to go … almost. I thought I knew where my corded drill was, but I was wrong (and now my wife keeps telling me I don’t have one, she’s probably right). So I headed out to get a cheap drill to get us through the day. I’ll be bringing it back to Target because the trigger sticks and it is terrible. One thing on my list is a decent set of power tools.

With an extension cord, drill, pencil, tape measure and improvised straightedge, we got to work.

It is better to just show you the progress.

start of bench

Prepared to make the first cuts on the high-density fiberboard. I really don’t have any tools, so we were using the studs as improvised horses so that we would not cut into the deck.

all of the materials in the office

Here you see all of the materials in my basement office, read to finally get put together. Word of the foolish for those who don’t know: be willing to spend money on tools. It will make the whole project easier.

What will become the lower shelf has a frame just like the top-level frame seen in the picture. The top of the workbench overlaps the L-shaped legs and gives it a really sleek look.

putting together the benchHere Paul is putting screws into the frame for the top of the workbench. You can see the lower shelf already in place and providing the structure for the legs as well. Really easy to put together.

the workbench finishedThis is the workbench as it stands right now. You can see the lower that is mainly used to house machines (and boxes for the moment). There is still some work I need to complete which mainly revolves around sanding and coating the shelf and top. I mounted a monitor on the wall for use on testing and debugging machines.

The workbench stands 38″ tall so that it is at a decent height for me to stand at and work on computers. It works quite well. I was able to put together my brother-in-laws new machine pretty easy. I need to figure out a lighting scheme for the area and also get some storage for tools on the wall or on the bench itself before I would consider it completed, but it is a huge step forward.

A huge thanks out to Paul and my wife (who watched our son while I worked on this with her own brother)!

Sweat the Big Stuff

As I was getting ready for bed last night, a phrase popped into my head.

It’s the small stuff that makes the difference.

It’s a true statement. In a lot of ways, the tiniest of details can make a huge difference between a good product and a great product. The way something feels can change how you interact with something. My Logitech MX620 wireless mouse feels infinitely better in the hand than a cheap Microsoft Basic Optical Mouse. You pay more, but the experience is better as well.

However, the small stuff wouldn’t matter if you don’t get the “big stuff” correct first. I don’t care how good the mouse feels in my hand if it can’t effectively track my movements. A cake with excellent frosting can taste terrible if the underlying cake is stale. A car can look awesome, but if it doesn’t have wheels it’s a huge paperweight on your front lawn.

What I’m basically saying is that before you can start fretting over the details you need to have your foundation in place. Sweat the big stuff and get that right, otherwise all of those small tweaks you make will be for nothing because you’ll still have a terrible product on your hands.

It will just look really good doing nothing.

No Snowblower

I vainly hoped that the snow would hold off for the rest of the winter (or at least the major stuff) after we moved into our home, but sadly that did not happen. We’ve had a fair amount of snow over the past 36 hours and without a snowblower it has been a pain to try and remove it.

A shovel is not the right tool for major snow removal, even with the decent shovel that I am in possession of. No, a snowblower would be a much more effective tool right now but is not going to be purchased at the moment.

Luckily, when you move into a house in a town, you don’t just gain a house, you also gain neighbors. We have probably the best two neighbors a person could ask for and one of them owns a snowblower. He also likes to use it. A lot.

So, a snowblower is on “THE LIST” for next winter so that I can help the neighborhood out when we dig out of these 12+ inches of snowfalls. Right now I am just very thankful for wonderful neighbors who are watching over my family while I am gone to work.

Two Days After

It has been two days since we moved into our new place and things are going pretty well. The move itself went well thanks to the help of my dad, my brothers and one of my coworkers. Without their help I would still be moving boxes back and forth or caught under a sofa asking for someone to help.

The weather was perfect, in the forties and not too windy either. Closing went smoothly with all of the signatures taking less than 30 minutes to accumulate and then pleasantries were had between us and the prior owners.

We are so happy to finally be in the place, but now the real work begins. We were able to get the bed and crib set up on Monday night, but that was about it. Yesterday we unpacked most of the kitchen and took care of those boxes so that we have some more room in the dining room to stack stuff while we continue to work our way through the boxes and boxes of stuff.

Kids don’t sleep very well when they get to a new place. It is getting better, but bedtime is a chore at the moment (especially for moms) when the screaming ensues as soon as you leave the room. No, not leave the room, but when you actually start to just close the door … a tiny little bit … even after you have been out of the room for a couple of minutes. Don’t ask me, I just live here.

My office is nothing more than the place where boxes are being kept and the cable modem and wireless router are pumping internet. I’m hoping to get down there to hook up the Mac Mini tonight and maybe get started with the Windows 7 installation on the PC desktop. That might have to wait a couple of days, however.

We were able to finally pick up our dog from my parent’s farm last evening and she is happy to be back at home. I’m planning on taking her for a walk tonight and get into a habit of doing that for both her benefit and mine. I need to get more active.

The entire second story and attic was rewired yesterday. New outlets, switches, plates and wiring was put in and it all looks a lot better. I feel better without having the old wiring sitting in the attic against the insulation. Now we get to start compiling a list of things we want to do to the house and then actually do them!

Those are the scatter-brained thoughts at the moment. So far everything is going really well and we are just trying to get settled into our new home and get unpacked.

Five Days to Close

Today marks five days until we close on our first home. To say that we are excited would be a gross understatement.

However, I currently have a complete lack of nervousness about everything. I’ve been reading up on purchasing a home for quite a few years and I’m ready to get into the house and see what we can do. We purposefully went with an older house because both of us liked a house with a little more character than you can find today and both of us grew up in older houses. Nothing like a 100+ year old farm house to get you ready for owning a home and having to do work on it.

The house we are purchasing, however, is in great condition. We will have an electrician in on Tuesday to replace some wiring in the attic, otherwise everything should be set to go for us to move in, unpack, and start to make something of our life after eight months of decisions, moving, more decisions, more moving, more decisions and some more moving. We will be able to take a box, unpack it, and then leave that box unpacked for months, maybe even years! That’s a good thought.

We will be able to have friends again and start to get involved in the community for the first time in a long time. We will be able to make changes to the house, paint rooms, update fixtures, plan for the future and just live our lives as a family! When you live with others for a long enough time you start to lose your own family identity a little, and the idea of being able to open the door to our own home and be our own family is quite exciting.

One exciting thing for me is that I will have the opportunity to set up my Cave. I haven’t had a Cave for a little while and even when I did it was sometimes used as a guest bedroom quite a bit as well. Even when I did have my own Cave, it was hard to get settled in because we didn’t own the property where the Cave was located. You can’t do a lot to a place when you don’t own the property or know how long you are going to be there.

One thing I am missing is a desk worthy of my Cave. This desk will need to be found, but for the time being I will be using a temporary one to get me by while I search or build what I will call The Desk.

The Desk will be large and plain in order to accommodate the amount of technology that my Cave will contain. It will also be used exclusively for computing while a workstation will be built for all client machines and for taking apart computers. The workstation will be standing height so that I can work easier and The Desk will have a chair for me to sit on.

There will be three different computers at The Desk. The Mac Mini, a Linux/Windows workstation and a Linux laptop. It will (hopefully, in the future) hold up three monitors, two for the Mac Mini and one for the workstation. Storage will be an issues but will be dealt with in the future. Internet will be served to the room via a cable modem … and I still need to figure out where that is going to go.

My Cave still needs a plan, and that plan will be revised but it will happen … some day.