28) I Visited Hobby Lobby #NewThingEveryDay

Hobby Lobby Entrance

I’ve found myself frequenting craft stores more and more. Sometimes it’s because I have a new project and they’re the only place I can find what I need, sometimes it because I am getting craft supplies for my 10 year old daughter. I’ve never been to a Hobby Lobby, not because of any controversial Supreme Court decisions*, but because until now there wasn’t one near me.

A week or so ago Hobby Lobby opened it’s doors in Northtown mall, conveniently located right next to Home Depot. Previously that section of the mall was pretty much abandoned, but now traffic in that corner of the mall has been crazier than usual. The first thing I noticed when I entered the store was the new store smell. Maybe it was just wood and formaldehyde. They had the usual stuff you’d find in Jo-Ann Fabrics or Michaels.

Science kits

One reason I was interested in Hobby Lobby was because I’d heard they actually had more models and other things I think of when I hear “hobby store.” They seemed to have more kids science kits and model railroad scenery building supplies, but it was just a few short aisles in a large store. I also noticed they had a ton of “Men’s Decor,” things like old fashioned metal signage and comic book themed decorations, things I’d never seen in other craft stores.

Comic Book Posters

When I saw the prices of things that I knew were also at other craft stores, it seems that they follow the “double the prices and give out 40% off coupon model” that I really hate about craft stores. I didn’t buy anything this trip and I’m not sure I ever will buy anything there, but at least I sated my curiosity.

*Frankly I think its appalling that a INCOPORATED company can deny any sort of medical benefits to its employees because of the owners religious beliefs. I used to think the right thing to do is to boycott companies whose policies I don’t agree with, but it is pretty much useless to change anything that way. That and life’s to short to hold contempt over an inanimate object.

27) I Joined Xcel Energy’s Windsource Program #NewThingEveryDay


I was paying my Xcel bill to day and I noticed under the “My Programs” section that there was a program called Windsource. I’ve been looking for the option to buy renewable electricity for the past few months, but with their recent site changes I haven’t been able to find it.

Basically you buy renewable energy at a premium price by the 100kWh. You can choose 1-10 100kWh blocks or have 100% of your electricity through the Windsource program. At the current rates it’s only around an extra $1 per 100 kWh.

I choose to buy 5 blocks. That’ll be about an extra $5 a month on my bill. I didn’t want to go 100% yet because once you sign up you have to stay in the program for a year. I wanted to test the waters first before I made any larger commitments.

Now the flip side is to use less electricity. I’ve been slowly trying to reduce the amount we consume over the years. I’ve pretty much replaced any light bulb that doesn’t have to be incandescent with either a CFL or LED bulb. We have a few ceiling fans with remotes that don’t play well with anything but incandescent bulbs. And since we all have tablets and/or phones, we only have one desktop computer that we use anymore.

26) Bought a FoosBall Table at a Thrift Store #NewThingEveryDay

Reassembled Foosball Table

I’ve brought home some strange things from the thrift store before, but probably nothing as substantial as a foosball table. I’ve always said If I saw a used Tornado table in good shape I’d buy it, so when I saw this Halex table in really good condition, for $50 ($37.50 after discount) I got much less picky. Even with the legs removed I could tell the table was sturdy.

This isn’t really the first foosball table that I’ve purchased. Back in college, a few fraternity brothers and I bought a Tornado table for the house. Unfortunately, the house closed on campus soon after we left and we have no idea where the table ended up.

When I bought the table I thought I’d have no problem loading it into my truck especially with help from the guys at the store. Well with my toolbox taking up the front half of the bed, I needed an extra 1/2″ to shut the tailgate once we loaded the table in the truck. So I had to leave the tailgate down and tie the back so it wouldn’t slide out. And of course I hadn’t loaded my ratchet straps back into my truck since I hauled the canoe, so I had to use my knot tying prowess.

Foosball Table straight out of the Truck

When I got home I carefully slid the table out of the truck bed by myself. There was no way I was getting the table downstairs with the rods in place so I removed them. Then I though, let’s just take the table apart completely and I’ll carry it piece by piece. I’m glad I did that too, I found several places where the original owner didn’t assemble the parts correctly. It also made it easier to wipe down the table.

When I started to put it back together downstairs, I decided to remove the film sheet over the playing field. Boy am I glad the original owner didn’t take it off because the original surface was in pristine condition.

When I started putting the rods and men back into the table, I found yet another problem, Some of the handles were installed on the wrong ends of some of the rods. You can see in the picture above that some of the handles are all the way against the table. There should be a few inches of rod between the handles and the table. The only way the table worked was that they only had only pressed the handles halfway onto the rods.

Handle on the wrong side

The handles are supposed to go on the ends with the holes drilled through them. These holes are there to secure different types of handles.

When my daughter came home I told her to go downstairs to clean up the mess she left from the night before. About 10 seconds later I heard a loud scream and her running back up the stairs to get her little brother. That scream made it all worth while.

25) Color Coded Shop Outlets #NewThingEveryDay

Blue Outlets

A few years ago I remembered reading on the Penultimate Workshop that Dyami Plotke color coded his outlets to avoid putting to many machines on the same circuit. I always thought this was a great idea, but never got around to implementing it.

While I don’t blow a lot of breakers anymore because I more or less know by this point don’t plug this tool in with that one, it’d still be handy to know which breaker was blown, because breakers don’t always flip like they are supposed to.

I finally got the opportunity to color code the breakers in my shop as part of a lager project that I’m working on. I’m mapping the breaker panels for my entire house while reviewing a circuit breaker finder. I have too many circuits to color code them all, and I don’t think mismatched outlet plates scattered around the house will make anybody but me happy, but my shop is a nice isolated area with only a few circuits.

Color Coded Fuse Box

After I figured out which outlets belong to which circuits, I colored the breakers red, yellow, and blue. The red and blue breakers run around the perimeter of my shop and the yellow breakers runs the switched outlets on the ceiling (and one lone outlet along the back wall.)

Painting the red outlet

I turned off the red circuit and I pulled off all the cover plates on that branch. Then I spray painted the plates with some old red spray paint I had in my cabinet. After I painted them I found that the paint was really easy to scratch. I guess I should have scuffed up the galvanized metal first.

Swithed Ceiling OUtlet

I did the same for the blue cover plates, this time I used Rust Oleum’s 2x Paint Primer and it seemed to stick to the galvanized cover plates much better. For the Yellow plates I actually remembered to scuff up the cover plate.

Red and Yellow Outlets

24) Got Skunked on New Lake (Grindstone) #NewThingEveryDay

Paddling the boat

My friend called me up earlier this week and asked if I wanted to go fishing this weekend. I said I was free Saturday afternoon. The next day he called me excited that he had found a Lake Trout lake only 1.5 hours away from us, Grindstone Lake just west of Sandstone.

Public Landing for Grindstone Lake

Saturday rolls around and we get up to the lake. As we are putting in his boat, I notice the guy in the pontoon who just left the dock got stuck on a sand bar. I noted where he was so we could avoid that spot. As we cast off, my friend backs up the motor into the same sandbar and plugs up the water cooling system.

As this happens we notice another guy on the bow of his boat paddling back into the landing. It turns out the whole river running into the lake is less than 1 foot deep. So I get up into the front of the boat and paddle us out to the lake.

After a few more mishaps we are out on the lake trolling for Lake Trout. It’s a beautiful 500 some acre lake that is 150 feet deep. There are some spots where the lake bottom drops off so fast that if a 100 feet deep 50 feet from shore. On the depth finder we are see a ton of suspended fish. You’d thing we’d have been in for a good day of fishing, well you’d be wrong.

The whole 5 hours were were out on the lake I never saw another boat catch a fish, including ours. As night got closer we stopped trolling and started casting the shoreline. I saw one fish surface. That was the only fish I saw the entire trip.

The fish just weren’t biting that day I guess. That’s okay, we had a great day fishing none-the-less.

Out on the lake

23) I Took my Puppy Swimming #NewThingEveryDay

Natasha Swimming

When most people who aren’t familiar with big dogs see Natasha, they are surprised that she is a puppy. She is only one year old. Which means she has a ton of energy. It doesn’t help that my wife runs 5K with her a few times a week. So we need to walk her at several miles each day or take her to the dog park to run with some other dogs.

The Rice Creek off leash dog area where we bring her is entirely fenced in. You get out of the car with the dog on the leash and walk them to one of two “airlocks” or double gates. You bring the dog into the airlock, close the gate behind them, take off their leash, and open the gate to enter the park. There’s also another single gate on the other side of the park that leads to a pond for the dogs to swim.

We’ve avoided taking her to the pond because we don’t want to get the car filthy. But today it was really hot and we needed to give ‘tasha a bath anyway, so we decided to let her swim. Even though she was whelped  in a house on a lake and swam as a small puppy, she wasn’t too sure what to think of the water. She lost all hesitation through when another owner threw a stick into the water for their dog.

Swimming may not be the best word to describe what she was doing. Bounding probably better describes it. I did actually catch her doing the doggy paddle once.

I just hope she doesn’t expect to go swimming every time we go to the dogpark!


22) I Tried to Dye Wood and PVC with Fabric Dye #NewThingEveryDay

Dyeing supplies

I caught an article on Make that showed how to dye PVC, so I did a little more research. I found several sites saying you could use something called Rit dye that’s cheap and available everywhere. It’s used as a fabric dye, but it’ll dye wood and plastic. Most sites still said you had to soften the PVC with either a cleaner or acetone.

I picked up some cherry red liquid Rit dye the other day for less than $2. I wanted to try to dye PVC, but I was more interested in how well it would dye wood. If I could find a cheap source of liquid dye, that would be really cool. I tried some powdered dye a while back and it was a disaster, the powder got everywhere.

Applying dye

I grabbed a few sticks of pine and I sanded a length of PVC to get rid of the printing. Then I applied the dye straight out of the container to the materials with a brush. After letting it sit for about an hour I wiped off the dye. I wasn’t too satisfied with the PVC so I trued rubbing acetone on the unstained part to soften it. Now, the dye wouldn’t stick to the PVC. I painted an extra coat of dye on the sticks for good measure.

Dyeing results

I wiped the dye off after an hour again. The dye just didn’t penetrate the PVC this time. I also sanded one of the sticks with some 220 grit sandpaper to see how that would look (the one on the left).

I’m not satisfied with the results. I need to go back and read the directions on how to dilute the dye and then soak the pieces. I was hoping to be able to just paint the dye onto the surface, but I’ll have to do it the hard way I guess.

21) I Made a Lego Zipline in My Son’s Room #NewThingEveryDay

Lego ZipLine

My son had so much fun at Maker Fest with the Tinkering with Lego Zipline, that I decided to put one in his room.

I didn’t have any string that was appropriate, so I took one of the LEGO wheel hubs that ride on the zipline to Menards and picked out some string that would work. I ended up buying #18 Nylon Masons Line.

I attached one end to his tree house bed with a screw eye. For the other end I needed to find a place to attach it that could handle the tension. I got lazy and just drilled a hole in his desk in a joint where the top meets the side and screwed the second screw eye in there. I figured I payed $12 for the desk and the hole is in a place where I can reality fill it later.

We quickly built a string rider and sent it down the line before bedtime. I can already see that I’ll either have to find a different place to attach the second end of the string, or build a wall so the string rider doesn’t hit the desk and fall off the end — kinda like the the mountaineer that falls off the mountain on the cliffhanger game on the Price Is Right.


20) I Used a Small Bin Parts Organizer for an Assembly Project #NewThingEveryDay

Small bin parts organizer

A few days ago I bought a 3D printer that I have to assemble myself. Every time I’ve embarked on a project like this I’ve just used the bags and boxes the kit came in. Inevitably I end up spending more time searching for the parts I need than assembling the project.

Thanks to this post over at ToolGuyd, I now am addicted to the 20 Bin Medium Portable Parts Storage Case from Harbor Freight. When they’re on sale you can grab them for $6, so last time this happened I grabbed a bunch of them. I’ve been using them for sorting LEGO, but I kept a few in reserve for assembly projects such as the 3D printer.

The first step in assembling the 3D printer was to take an inventory of all the parts. So I took this opportunity to remove all the parts from the ziplock bags they shipped in and dumped them into the organizer. I left all the screws in their proper bags though because the instructions actually call out for the screws by what bag they are in.

I can tell already that this organizing the parts before I started the assembly has helped speed the assembly up.


19) Made a Copy Stand for our SLR #NewThingEveryDay

Copy Stand for SLR

A review I’m doing requires a shot of the product from above. This is hard to do with a regular tripod like I have. I’m not exactly sure what you call the device for holding a camera so you can get a shot from above, but I found that sometimes they call it a copy stand because you use it to copy photographs.

There are fancy tripods with boom arms and at some point I’ll either buy one or make something similar. Right now I needed the picture. So, I grabbed some pine scraps from my lumber rack, measured the height I wanted the camera to be above the table, and made some simple T-shaped legs. I used a 1×4 to connect the legs and drilled a 5/16″ hole in the middle for the 1/4-20 bolt that would hold the camera.

All told, it probably took me longer to write this post (and process the photos) than it took me to make the copy stand. Knowing that I’m kicking myself that I didn’t make one earlier. It would have made photographing many of my projects a whole lot easier.

Copy Stand for SLR from above