Let’s try this instead..

The pyramid configuration just didn’t work for me. I wear progressive bifocals and I spent half the day with my head tilted back to look at the upper monitor and after just a few hours it was killing my neck. After ten to twelve hours of that a day I was a mess.

New Desktop Configuration

I had to try something different. At 52″ wide I knew I didn’t have enough room on my desktop for the iMac and the two monitors to sit in landscape mode, side by side. I really didn’t want to have to buy a bigger desk. I also realized I was going to need to move the floating shelf out of the way to the right.

I bought a dual monitor stand to mount the monitors on. I thought I was going to have to mount them both in portrait mode but fortunately there was just enough room to mount one in each mode.

After getting the two monitors set up I decided the iMac was now too low so I removed the under shelf I built and set it back on the desktop. Again, because of my bifocals I prefer that I look in a more downward direction at my monitors. So now my keyboard and mouse were too low for real comfort.

Years ago we bought a gaming table. It had inserts for chess, backgammon, parcheesi, and some other table top games. The tabletop was 1-3/4″ thick laminated pine. Unfortunately we kept it in the garage for way too long and it got seriously dried out. I cut it up thinking I was going to turn it into a new end grain butcher block cutting board but the wood was far too dry, it chipped and splintered badly. I would have had to fill way too many holes, there were too many gaps in the glue up.

It wouldn’t work for a cutting board but it would work as a platform for my mouse and keyboard. I’ve never cared for Mac peripherals. Their keyboards and mice are an abomination of form over function. I prefer my keyboards larger, more configurable, and on a greater incline. I absolutely love my Corsair mechanical keyboard and dread having to go from it to that chiclet keyboard and having to relearn how to copy/paste. Every time I switch between my other machines and this iMac drives me nuts.

Anyway, I decided to put together three pieces of the old tabletop I had glued up in a way that would work as a riser for iMac’s keyboard and mouse. I also added a strip of oak to increase the angle of the keyboard. It’s likely a little too highly pitched but I can plane it down if need be.
Note: This last effort to increase the incline of the keyboard did not work as well as envisioned. I’ve removed it and just added a couple of stick on feet to the back of the keyboard.

I’m actually liking having the middle monitor in portrait mode. I can see more lines of code at one time and I also have a browser window set to view my pages in mobile phone mode so I can more quickly check formatting. I’m liking it so far!

My Knife Block

A couple of years ago I laminated some African Mahogany and Walnut together to make this block.

This is my first attempt at high def pix of any of my projects. I definitely need to do more to set up the shots and some are out of focus. It’s a learning curve.

Clicking on the images below will load a large hi-def image. It may take a while to load depending on your internet connection.

For the Light


It usually sits on the shelf in my office.
The last pic in this series is a better quality shot of this view.

For the Light


Remove the cap and you can see the magnets I used to align and secure it.

For the Light


I also embeded magnets to secure the base to the cap.

For the Light


There is another magnet embedded inside the sheath to hold the blade firmly.

For the Light


It houses my very expensive damascus steel french knife.

For the Light


A view from behind.

For the Light


Back to Front.

Clearly I should have thought more about staging the area reflected in the mirror. Even this late in the year the sun here is just too bright. It created a huge hot spot in the shots that I tried to compensate for in Photoshop.

Yes, there is a lot I need to learn about digital photography.

I’ll post more hi-def shots of some other/older projects as time permits.

Pix Art 2

Ugghh, yesterday was not one of my best days.

I spent an hour resetting the new lights and adjusting the camera settings. I had my little HP laptop patched into the camera to view the camera screen and the resulting pix we were taking.

I set the camera to F5.6, ISO 100, and the shutter speed to 1/20. It looked great so we spent the next five hours shooting pix of 27 of Tammy’s pieces of art.

Then we looked at them on my main desktop (the MSI) with my two 24′ monitors. All of the pix were still too dark.

I can use them for the prints but I would have to do some major adjustments in Photoshop on each and every shot. I don’t want to do that. I want to do this right from the jump and take better pictures.

I ordered new bulbs so I have 5500K CFL Day Light bulbs in all six sidelights. I’ll spend more time adjusting the camera settings and check the pix on my MSI before I proceed to take all of them over again next Saturday.

I also had a lot of trouble with the really cheap plastic tripod I have. It was on clearance at Walmart for like $20 a few years ago. It was “good enough” for the little point and click cameras I had but was extremely clunky trying to use it with this much bigger camera. Just trying to frame the shot was a struggle and took way longer than it should have and every time I pushed the button to take a picture the camera moved. It was beyond frustrating.

The new aluminum tripod I ordered will be here Tuesday.

Pix Art Studio

So Tammy finally decided she was ready to start selling her paintings. To sell them online we need really good, as in professional level, photos of them.

First, we needed a new camera. Our old $40 cameras weren’t going to cut it. After some research and consultation with a couple of professional photographers we know I decided to get a Canon Rebel T7. I would have loved to spend a grand or six on a top of the line DSLR but it really isn’t necessary to break the bank for this.

Next, we needed good lighting. Lighting is critical for getting high quality pix if you want to sell prints of your artwork. I saw no need to break the bank for this either and I found a lighting kit for just under $60 delivered.

Finally, we needed a studio with a plain white background. I really didn’t want to just pick a wall in the house and paint it flat white so I decided to build a temporary wall. I made an 8′ x 5′ frame out of cheap 2″ x 2″ dimensional lumber and tacked an old white sheet to it. Then tacked the whole thing to the wall in the living room with just one screw.

And then took a few test shots of one of her paintings.

Landscape

I think this is pretty good for a first attempt with the camera on a semi-automatic setting. I’ll be doing more research to find the ideal non-automatic settings as time permits.

So it turns out this is not going to be quite as easy as I thought. The painting below (On the Beach) is probably my favorite of her abstracts. And definitely my pick for favorite frame that I’ve made for her paintings.

On the Beach

As you can see the shot is not level, appears to be taken a bit from the left, and most troublesome is that it looks a little like a a fish-eye lens was used. I know the frame is straight, so I’m going to have to look to see what it is with the camera that is causing it to balloon the shot like that. (Spoiler Alert, I figured it out, see below, and wow have I forgotten a lot about photography!)

It also looks like hanging the paintings isn’t going to work. I can’t guarantee the painting is staying perpendicular to the camera making it look like I am taking the picture more from one side than the other.

THE NEXT DAY:

Well, I added a shelf to the screen wall and it has eliminated a lot of the issues I had with trying to hang the art. Now I just have to figure out the correct ISO, F8, etc settings on the camera.

LATER THAT SAME DAY:

OK, I’ve gotten the Fish-eye issue under control. I have limited space to work so I had the camera pretty close to the subject, with the lens set to anywhere from 24mm-35mm. I’ve made more room and pulled the camera back so the lens is set to about 50mm.

My lights aren’t quite bright enough to do an ISO of 100 @ F8 so it’s now set to 200. A little adjustment of the WB (I still used the wrong setting) and here is my latest attempt:

For the Light

It’s better but I still don’t have quite enough light so I ordered another, much brighter, set of light stands. They will hopefully be here Thursday, Dec 3rd.

TWO MORE DAYS LATER:

The new lights came in Wednesday afternoon so as soon as I was done with work I put them together and set up a new shot. I set the ISO back to 100 but that was the only change I made to the camera.

The difference is subtle but the lighting is much more even. I probably should have tried this with a little more colorful piece. I think I might try one more shot at ISO 200 just to make sure but I think I’m ready to go.

For the Light

The only thing that might improve things at this point would be a good light meter but I’ll hold off on that purchase for now.

Third Eye, the Third

Well, I found out a little over a week ago that I was getting a new 27″ iMac. Of course, I did not know that when I built the riser. The new iMac is three inches taller than the 21.5″ model I was using so I either had to either add three inches in height to the riser and build a 3″ riser for the second monitor or somehow shrink the new iMac so it would fit under the third monitor as it was now configured.

I really did not want to raise the height of all three monitors. I prefer they are at or below my line of site. Though I have to a bit for the third monitor, I prefer not having to crane my neck back while working. On my home workstation the top of monitors are just below my line of site and I rarely get neck or eye fatigue with that arrangement.

At this time I can’t really do that with my work workstation. I don’t have enough room horizontally for all three monitors. I’ve been tempted to buy a second mounting arm and re-orient the two extra monitors vertically. This would solve a lot of problems but it would still be a really tight fit horizontally and I would need to move the shelf about a foot to the right or raise it about four inches to get it all to fit. While that would probably be the best option it would cost another $30 and it would be a lot more work.

For now I have chosen to dust off my trusty monitor shrinking machine (Patent Pending) to try and get the new machine to fit into the current space. Kidding, anyway I found the dimensions for the 27″ iMac online, took more measurements and built the “under shelf.”

Under Shelf Plan

I eased all of the edges and sanded it. I also added a couple of coats of Teak oil and wax before mounting it.

It turns out I mounted this just barely far enough to the right for the monitor to fit. I probably should have spent a little more time looking at this before mounting it, but it worked.

There is just an 1/8″ between the desktop and the iMac (when fully perpendicular), and between the iMac and the upper monitor.

Done, for now.

A New Frame

I’ve made many frames for my wife’s paintings. Here’s one for a 20″ x 24″ abstract she recently finished.

It was pretty simple. I cut a 5/8″ dado into some 3/4′ x 2-1/2 primed stock on my router table. Then I used the router and a chisel to cut out the areas need to interlock it all together. I used a little glue and some 1-1/4″ brads after squaring it up.

Third Eye Part 2

After using the riser for a week I decided to maker a couple of small changes, then sand and finish it.

I used a short length of black pipe to act as a spacer for the mounting bolt. I thought about cutting it off but I might change the mount later so I used a spacer instead.

I sanded it down and threw on a couple of coats of oil and wax.

Riser
It’s nice to get the cables off of the desktop.

Third Eye

Last Friday I decided I wanted a third monitor for my work system:

I ordered the least expensive 24″ HDMI capable monitor I could find that could also be delivered by Sunday. It’s a ViewSonic VA2446mh. I got it for just $110 w/delivery.

My work desk is height adjustable so I can stand or sit.I did not want to mount the monitor on the wall. Well that and I may end up re-arranging my office so I did not want to have to deal with moving the mount, patching holes, etc. so I ordered an ErGear Single Monitor Mount Stand.

I knew the mount was going to be too short to get the new monitor over the two existing ones but building a riser for the new mount would make up for the lack of height I needed and was much cheaper than buying a much more expensive, taller arm..

I didn’t take any pictures during the build of the riser, but here is the final product in use.

The riser can slide side to side without having to loosen any clamps, bolts, or screws. More importantly though the monitor will move up and down with the desktop as I raise or lower it to sit or stand. I don’t actually it lower it to sit that often. Once in a while after about 7-8 hours of work I will sit for whatever is left in the work day.

One change I may need to make is really just an addition. I ‘ll probably glue some leather to the back of the riser just to make sure it doesn’t scratch the paint on the wall. It’s a pretty snug fit between it and the wall but I can squeeze some thin leather in there.

So for $137 and some scrap wood I have a new third monitor, for my “work” workstation that is.

Grease is the Word

I never thought I would start baking bread again but working from home, isolating from the world due to Covid19, and triple digit heat which prevents me from working in my shop, has left me with too much time on my hands. Yes I’m even making sourdough. My starter culture is a couple of months old so it’s not matured yet but it’s getting there.

I’ve been running our KitchenAid 4.5 qt. mixer more in the last couple of months than I have in any given year since we bought it almost twenty years ago. As you may know, bread dough can put a lot of strain on a mixer and I typically let it run for six minutes with the dough hook per batch (2 – 12oz. loaves per batch).

KitchenAid 4qt stand mixer
Model# K45SSWH

The mixer has held up really well. Purchased in 2001 for $249.99, it’s seen a lot of use, and a lot of idle time. There may have been a year long period or three where it just sat covered on a counter.

A couple of weeks ago after a mixing a batch of dough I noticed some dark grey grease running down the spindle onto the dough hook. It had also been sounding “fatigued” when I mixed some dough, much more than it usually did anyway. I was afraid that this fine old machine was on it’s last legs, but once again a little time on Google and the YouTube gave me hope that it would survive a little longer.

It turns out that the grease packed around the gears was just old and breaking down. An $8 tube of food safe grease delivered the next day by Amazon Prime, a little elbow grease and it’s running like new again. Maybe I’ll get a another twenty years out of it!

It was messy as hell but worth it. I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the process. There are a lot of YouTube videos that show you how to do it covering about every model there is out there. This is the one for my model:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3e0oEdIrGw

The Stinger Wet/Dry Vac

The Stinger Wet/Dry Vac

I really don’t remember what prompted me to buy this little vacuum. It was pretty inexpensive. Maybe I had a store credit I needed to use before it expired? Maybe I was thinking I would use it for dust recovery on my orbital sander? It had been sitting in its box for years.

Who knows, but it was small and powerful enough, to use on my mini CNC machine so I dusted it off and got to work.

The Stinger Wet/Dry Vac

It was $30 at Home Depot and came with a few essential accessories:

The Stinger 2.5 Gal. wet/dry vac is a compact and portable vac for wet and dry applications. Expect the suction to be just what you need for your home, garage and renovation cleanups. Included vacuum attachments allow you take on a wide variety of surfaces and applications that would be harder to clean with the hose alone. Uses replacement vacuum filter bag VF2000.

  • 1.75 peak HP, 4.0 Amp motor for any home, garage or renovation mess
  • Easily converts into a blower to help clear work areas of debris
  • Included bag filter traps dust and debris
  • Dent-resistant plastic tank provides durability for care-free maneuverability
  • 10 ft. power cord provides an extensive reach
  • 4 ft. hose with car nozzle and utility nozzle help you tackle a variety of cleaning jobs
  • Peak horsepower represents a level at or below the maximum horsepower output of an electric motor tested in a laboratory using a dynamometer
  • Gallons indicated reflect drum volume, not necessarily collection capacity, actual capacity dependent upon type of debris collected, condition of filter and other factors
The Stinger Wet/Dry Vac

The biggest issue I had with this thing was that it was loud. Really loud.

I have pretty severe Tinnitus. It was caused by standing next to roaring chain saws from approximately the age of 5 to 14. Followed by decades of working in restaurant kitchens.

If you go here and play Tinnitus sounds 3 and 6 simultaneously at about 42dB you will hear what I do, non-stop, 24-7. Sometimes it’s seems louder, on rare events I’ll hardly notice it.

The worst part about it is that the quieter the environment around me is, the louder it sounds in my head. I know it sounds counter-intuitive but I cannot go to sleep without something to drown out the noise in my ears. Unfortunately and as much as I’d like to, for various reasons I cannot use music. So for the last few decades I use a TV. Fortunately most TV’s now have a sleep timer so it doesn’t have to run all night. I can set it to shut off after 90 minutes or so.

Anyway, getting back to the vacuum. I needed the machine to serve as dust collection and a blower to keep the bits cool on my CNC machine. For efficiency’s sake it had to be fairly close to the CNC machine. Which meant it would be close to me when operating the CNC. The CNC was already loud enough the combination of the two was beyond deafening.

The Stinger Vac alone is 93-95dB, pretty loud for such a small vacuum.

I really don’t need to damage my hearing any more than I already have so I decided to build some sound reduction for it.

My first attempt was less than stellar, dropping the noise level only a little over 10 dB.

The add on baffle I built for it made it much more bearable with an over-all drop of 30dB.