If you can dream it

You can build it!

This past weekend, I spent a few hours running a test to see if I could model something like this

image

Into this

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And I did!

That’s a rough prototype. I only used a 1/16” flat down-cut bit which leaves a pretty rough surface. I had to hit it on the sander just to get rid of a lot of the wood shavings, but other than that this is what pops out of the machine in a single pass. Took about 40 minutes to rout, but the information gleaned was invaluable.

First thing I learned is how to navigate around Autodesk Fusion 360 (which is free for hobbyists!) and create the grip from specs. This is actually much easier in a 3D program like fusion 360 than anything I could do in Illustrator, not to mention that this is dimensional, not just a 2d outline. There’s also the fact that the program handles distances & whatnot for you much better (e.g. I need the center of this hole to be .36” from this edge. It will always be .36”, even if you move the edge). Much fun. Very cool.

Second, I can visualize how to make some really, really, really nice grips, even some with inlays. I have some highly figured walnut that I’m dying to turn into a set of grips with ebony & maple outlines and make a matching pen & pencil set out of. Part of the trick is learning how to swap out pieces without getting misaligned (the XCarve is a hobby machine, not a NASA engineered precision system, so things can get slightly off track if you’re not careful). Once I can successfully remove parts and / or change bits without losing precision, it will give me so many new options for cool things.

There’s also order of operations. For a scale, I need to drill very small holes for alignment on the top & bottom so I can flip them without them getting offset. The bottom holes have a slightly larger radius to allow for a flange and the tops have something similar for the screw head. Manually doing this with a drill is… let’s just say I’ve yet to have success with that. I can use my drill press now, but all three holes are not common sizes & require special bits. At least with the CNC, I can rout out those pockets with pretty good accuracy although holes tend to be a bit wonky (gotta figure out why).

Once I have the holes drilled, I can put it back on the jig and carve out the pockets for any inlays, carve out the inlays themselves, glue them together, then back on the jig for basic shaping. I need to add on about .01” to the overall thickness to allow for sanding and final whatnots.

Stay tuned! Exciting things are coming!

posted by Robb Allen @ 3/28/2017 8:39:29 AM | Feedback (15)
We are experiencing technical difficulties

And by that, I mean one of the hard drives in the server is really, really dying. This is an older copy of the website, hope I haven’t lost too many pieces of data, but bear with me as I slowly try to care enough to bring it back.

posted by Robb Allen @ 3/27/2017 9:23:25 PM | Feedback (2)
Remember I talked about getting a CNC or music gear for church?

I did both…

The deal was too good to pass up on the CNC router. The original owner was younger & simply couldn’t keep it running because the wiring never worked. I went to look at it and realized it simply needed the wiring redone and a few small, inexpensive parts. Still waiting on the parts, but all wiring is done.

I can’t wait to get started. I have SO many ideas, like this one.

2017-03-06_21-10-44

As for the music equipment, the Mrs. agreed that it was for the church (I can’t use the stuff at home) so that we’d pay for it as a family. We moved money around a bit, realized we had it for both purchases, and went for it.

Stay tuned. I promise there will be some amazing stuff coming up soon! More than just awesome pens.

posted by Robb Allen @ 3/7/2017 10:05:26 PM | Feedback (9)
A dilemma of several currencies

As a Dave Ramsey acolyte, I have a rule – If I cannot pay cash for something, I do not buy it. Period.

Like all rules there are times when they have to get bent or broken and I’m not so hard core that I’d tell my daughter “Sorry, you can’t have a life saving operation because we don’t have the cash for it”, but I am pretty adamant that I will not go into debt for basic wants.

This system has actually increased my cash flow as my wife & I no longer impulse buy, thus we only buy things we absolutely want or need. I highly suggest checking out Financial Peace University . However that’s not the thrust of this post, merely a preface.

I love woodworking. I am having a blast making really nice pens for people and I’ve slacked at putting them up here. I also have requests to do other things like bandsaw boxes, a combination barstool / cajón, a challenge coin holder, etc.

The great thing is this actually makes money to cover the hobby. As long as I have cash in hand, I can buy stuff to do more woodworking.

Enter the CNC.

I can think of a billion things to do with a CNC and I’ve not even scratched the surface. From jigs to templates to extremely detailed cuts that there would be no way I could do with a coping saw and my giant, steam shovel sized hands, I could find enough to do with a CNC to let me learn how they work and then expand.

Between Shapeoko and X-Carve, the two major hobby-level CNCs, we’re talking about $1500 to get into it, fully loaded. For about a grand, I could get the entry-level system but would probably spend a lot more time trying to get them to work. Or, I could spend around $500, buy all the parts and build the rest. But that butts  up against the one currency I do not possess – Time.

I’m out of time. Completely and utterly. Both my girls have music lessons, Girl Scouts, youth group, friends’ parties, etc. etc. The house needs the gutters cleaned out, the fence needs pressure washing, how the hell are weeds growing out of the side of the house, yadda yadda yadda. The woodworking takes a lot of time, and it’s not something I can genearlly just walk out to the shop, spend 15 minutes, and come back later. Plus, in between all those times, I need to socialize with my kids & my wife.

The last thing I can do is spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to build a CNC machine. I prefer one that all the parts are basically ready to put together and viola! My time is spent learning how to use, not how to build.

Oh, also – I’m in the church praise band & play on Sunday. I have to practice for that, but I’m also trying to expand beyond just guitar. I want to be able to do some keyboard work as well as being able to provide backing tracks. We’re also moving into using in ear monitors vs. the stage monitors so we can control our sound better. We’re a really small church, so all those things are items we are buying ourselves.

Yesterday, I found someone on Craigslist selling a 1000mm x 10000mm X-Carve for about half price. Doesn’t have all the bells & whistles, but it would carve stuff for me, and bells & whistles can easily be added on as we go.

The problem is, he’s young, bought this not realizing how complex it is, then realized he didn’t really have the money for it (see first few paragraphs) and is wanting to offload it to cut his losses. It doesn’t work, per se, and needs a few repairs to get it running and my gut instinct is he didn’t connect Part A to Slot B correctly. If that’s the case, it’s a good deal. If not, and he shoehorned in Part C into Slot P using a Dremel, then getting it back into working order may be that same amount of effort that I literally cannot afford.

Financially, it would completely suck up every last cent of my funding (in fact, I’d have to borrow against some other funds I’ve got set aside). And that means the audio equipment I need for church wouldn’t get purchased for a few months. None of these funds are family-funds, I consider those untouchable for crap that only benefits me. I do have some orders that I need to finish up & the payments from those would help, but not completely cover. AND, I have materials I have to buy anyway which limit that pool even more.

Options - I can stretch my rules, risk buying something that might take more time than I have AND possibly require more $$$ to get completed, especially if it’s messed up vs. not put together correctly. The payoff though could be a CNC which could honestly free up a lot of time once I get it working PLUS open up a lot of opportunities for new products. That, and it’s computers AND woodworking, which combines my hobby with my profession. Cons – No gear for church for several months.

Or, buy the gear I need for Church.  There’s no deadline, it’s not like I have to do it to continue playing, it’s just that we’re trying to be better and that requires some equipment upgrades. Our lead guy just got his gear yesterday & we’ll be trying it out tomorrow after Ash Wednesday service. The drawback here is that by the time I recoup the funds, the 1/2 price unit may be gone and I’d need to save up a considerable amount more than I think I can within a year. Big drawback – this gear is only for church. I don’t need in-ear-monitors or DI boxes at home. I’m more than happy to buy it myself and there’s no complaint about it, but it’ll only be used at church. I might be able to budget for this using family funds because it isn’t a toy for me and it can just be part of our normal giving (in addition to, not replacing), but that’s a harder sell to the Mrs.

So I have a dilemma. Time, money, and responsibilities.

Thoughts?

posted by Robb Allen @ 2/28/2017 12:00:22 PM | Feedback (11)
A note on my dad.

He's home now, resting, and getting back into the swing of 'being retired'.

The surgery was a success, they removed 5% of one of his kidneys, and completely removed the tumor. There will be no chemo and nothing else besides standard followups to make sure he's healing.

Praise God that his back was hurting him enough to get him to go in for xrays. They never figured out what the back pain was, but by the grace of God they found the tumor, tiny and easily cut out before it caused any real damage.

Glad to have my old man still around. I may be a father of 2 myself, but there's always something he can teach me.

posted by Robb Allen @ 2/4/2017 8:16:55 PM | Feedback (7)
Geek joke

Who's there?

Asynchronous Programming Who?

Knock Knock

Asynchronous Programming

posted by Robb Allen @ 2/3/2017 1:31:07 PM | Feedback (6)
I’m thinking “Rational Ignorance” is looking more & more rational

Today on Twitter, someone I followed retweeted something about how conservative Christians actually get pleasure from people suffering. I called her out on this and her response was that if it pissed me off, maybe it was because it was true.

I don’t like Trump, thus I’m despised by people I used to fight side by side against the creeping state because hey, they now have the pen & phone and dammit, they’re going to use it and my principles means I hate America & am a commie bitch.

I have no problems with people opening up their homes and accepting refugees who are fleeing oppression. I’m not as much of a fan of me being forced to open *my* wallet to do so, but this means that I don’t care about kids dying. I mention there are people near by that I’d prefer to take care of instead, and I’m called a white-nationalist. Racist. Xenophobe. Whatever the insult du jour is.

Mention that I’m ok with people of any color, religion, background, foreground, downtown, uptown,  whatever – owning firearms to defend themselves and I’m a cross between Satan and Hitler since I want to see people of some  color, religion, or background killed or something.

Not kidding, this morning I opened my favorite “bathroom time” game, Two Dots, to entertain myself while I dropped off a Wookiee at the Cantina, and the splash screen was a political message about the falsely-named #muslimban.

I deleted it immediately.

It’s not logical. It’s not rational.

And dammit… it’s not healthy. I don’t enjoy it any more. I can’t even log into the Bookface thing to post pictures of my woodworking or  my kids without being pummeled by political shit-tossing.

I’m this close to just shutting it all down. Quit Twitter. Mute everyone on FB. Stop reading blogs.

I’ll be ignorant of what’s going on. But I’ll be less angry.

posted by Robb Allen @ 1/30/2017 4:33:30 PM | Feedback (10)
Prayers & Well Wishes Greatly Appreciated

My father is heading into surgery this morning to remove the cancer from his kidney. They skipped the laparoscopic option due to the location of the tumor & are cutting him open instead.

I cannot be there because I’m still sick with a cold and it’s simply not a good idea for me to be there where I could infect him or his wife with this crud. So I have to worry from afar.

The tumor is small and they should be able to cut it entirely out in one shot, so hopefully all goes to plan and he’s back to himself in no time, preferably the cancer-free self.

posted by Robb Allen @ 1/30/2017 8:03:01 AM | Feedback (7)
Own a piece of history

As you all (the 6 or 7 of you who still read me, that is) know, I’ve gotten into woodworking recently. It’s been something I’ve always wanted to do and now that I have a house with an actual workshop in the back, I’ve been able to fulfill that dream.

Now that I have a lathe, I can turn objects and some of those happen to be pens. My girls & I made a few pens over the past few days and of course I showed them off on Twitter and Facebook.

Then the orders started coming in.

I wasn’t expecting that, but I enjoy making them and so I’m going to open up the offer here as well as I’d like to get as many orders in place as I can before I start buying more materials. Bulk is costly up front, but cheaper in the long run. Unless you don’t use it all, then… well… My plan is to put up the basic price sheet here and hopefully generate a few more orders before I start.

So, take a look at the pens here. All these pens were slimline style,  black ink, twist-operation with gunmetal hardware. The ink is standard cartridges like you find here. I can, of course, get any other colors of hardware like brass, silver, titanium, etc. (some at an extra cost. Rhodium for example!)

I use only gluten free inks

From left to right

The first pen was mostly turned by my eldest daughter. We picked a random blank of wood and it turned out amazing. It’s the most basic pen and it runs $25.

The second pen is purpleheart with a maple/wenge laminate stripe. I can do laminate stripes of all sorts of woods & colors. Multiple bands can be added to a pen – $30

The third one is an exotic. This one happens to be snakewood and is one of the more expensive woods you will find. These would run $35-$40 (starting) depending on the wood. I can do amazing burl wood pens, but sometimes those blanks, like Amboyna Burl, can  run $80. They’re drop-dead sexy though.

Finally, I have a serpentine pen. Serpentines are created by cutting up a blank, adding in thin veneers, then gluing them back together. They start like this

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And end up like the pen you see on the right. You’re never really 100% sure what you’re going to get when the pen is turn, but it comes out as awesome swirls. I’m going to attempt different angles and thicknesses too. These requires a lot of work as it’s a minimum of 4 cut & glue-ups as well as cutting the veneers from the stock I have. These are $50, but are unique as all get out.

I’m also thinking about doing a limited edition (aka too much work to do all the time) Pen, Pencil, and 1911 Grip set, all from the same billet of wood, which would make a really, really nifty set. I’ve not thought of a price on that yet but if there’s interest, I can put that in the hopper.

If you’re interested in any of these pens or have questions, please email me at robb at robballen.com.

posted by Robb Allen @ 1/9/2017 11:00:00 AM | Feedback (9)