It’s Always Something #006

Today’s mind-blowing reason it’s so hard to deal


You could call it Murphys Law. In some cases, you could call it Entropy. Just don’t call it a surprise, because we all know…

It’s always some damn thing! 

Well, I’ve been stressing for months about my car and ignoring twice daily phone calls. This week, I decided it was time to rip the band aid off and answer the phone. 

Tomorrow morning, I will drive my son to school in my lovely Volt and take the long way home… for the last time. It’s been a long time coming, and I have watched the train rolling down the tracks for weeks, feeling helplessly tied down.  

Every bill collector wants to know why we can’t pay. What on earth is so cataclysmic as to prevent us from coming up with at least some money at some point. I don’t have a clear answer. 

Months of struggling to pay even rent on time has forced me to wrap my poor flustered mind around inevitable homelessness. My face feels like it looks the part, too. I’ve never liked too much facial hair. I don’t like shaving daily, but a week is about as long as I can usually stand before I have to scrape it off. I haven’t shaved because I honestly can’t stand to look myself in the mirror. I don’t want the image of myself being a complete piece of shit on top of the feelings. 

Whatever. Here’s to ripping the band aid off and getting through the last of what’s to come. It really, truly can’t get much worse before it gets better now!

Standing on Shoulders

Well, then… given my state of affairs as of late, I’m excited to share something more notable!

So, I designed my own parametric CNC mill. Straight from my imagination. Which is to say I absolutely could not come up with an industrial grade machine on the first round, especially on a shoestring budget. As far as my creations go, it’s about the most involved project I’ve undertaken on my own. It’s been alive for nearly a year, and despite a slow start, I’ve been getting ever more glitch free running hours out of it. 

I conglomerated a short list of project ideas a couple weeks ago, some that are essential and some just for kicks. I finally made it to an essential project: tightening up the play in the axis. I haven’t had a chance to do all the improvements I need to do, but this was a remarkable start! 

I clocked a good number of runtime hours in, feeling pretty stoked on the new mastery of shape that my machine empowered me with. Then, I thought I’d do something neat and cut out a perfect little pocket for a bearing to sit in. I barely set it in place before the obvious issue struck me down: the perfect circles I thought I cut were clearly perfect ovals. Observing the machine more closely, I finally saw all the little wiggles along the drive train.  The Z axis was easily secured with a couple washers, but the other two required more effort. Basically, the linear bearings were just all around sloppy. I shim-shiminy’d all the shims I had, but ultimately the failure was in the design. I skimped on the linear bearing brackets, opting for a mere one bracket per point of contact. It was a hundred dollar decision that cost me dearly in quality. Lesson learned! 

Moving on to the project at hand, I was really really tempted to clamp these pieces of HDPE to the mill for the heavy lifting and let my fingers work the magic on the keyboard. Circles being out of the question, all I really needed was good depth control and one firm axis. As I endeavored to get the two pieces positioned and imagining how the rest of the operation might go down, I got the feeling that maybe this wasn’t the best approach. 

Sitting against the wall, boxes piled on top and underneath, was my beloved Mark V. Most of my audience is wondering who Mark is, but I’m sure someone out there will read this and chuckle. It may seem peculiar that this antiquated old pile of metal has such value in my eyes, but I’m more connected to this thing than I care to discuss at the moment. Not this exact machine, but the Shop Smith in general. Much like the Volkswagen in its conception, this piece of Deutsch engineering was built with serviceability and ubiquity as focal points. Unlike Volkswagen, these folks stuck to their guns, but don’t let me get started on that rant! Since the Mark V’s debut in 1953, they have made very few but very thoughtful changes. My machine is a 70’s model, but absolutely any accessory ever made will fit without adaptation. I can still buy replacement belts, motors, quills, etcetera if it ever breaks. If I decide I have too much money one fairy tale day, I can upgrade the whole headstock. Ooh, digital rpm display! <Homer drool> 

I would say my CNC is standing on the shoulders of a giant. I’m sure the purists will tell me all about the lathe being king and what-not, but I have the capacity for a compact, light machine. I’m doing what I can with what I got! I also have to point out that, despite being an older model with fewer of the stabilizing revisions, I am fairly confident in the accuracy of cuts it can produce. So, with a sacrificial layer expertly mounted to the fence (eh hem) I started making shavings. 

Now, one aspect that dissuaded me from using the mill was thinking about all the passes I would have to make. It’s just plastic, so it should cut like butter, right? Well, sort of. It is high density plastic, so I couldn’t just hog off a quarter inch per pass. However, the Mark V has a 5/8 inch chuck as well as a 1/2 inch collet and I have a wider selection of bits to work with. A half inch end mill made for easy chewing of most of the block. From there, it took a couple of tedious hours to nibble the notches down using a cheap Dremel bit, but I really wanted that nice 1/8 inch bead profile to match the slot in the 80/20 extruded aluminum. 

Excellent! The gap in the notch is about 0.2mm, and will translate into less error than that at the bit. The notch that fastens to the other beam? Well…

…does it look accurate enough to you? 

At the end of it all, I did have to wonder if all the time I just spent on these things was worth it or if I should have just bought another set of brackets (maybe not 80/20 brand!) Considering my going rate and backlog of profitable work waiting to be done, these 4 brackets cost me at least a hund-o. I would have spent the same plus shipping on brackets, so I figure that it’s a wash as long as my parts don’t wear out too fast. 

As I went to mount them, I realized that I probably did better than just saving on shipping. I did spend a fair bit of time installing shims on the rest of the bearing pads. Somehow, I didn’t quite have enough to go around, either. I realized this as I had taken all my measurements off the Y axis rails but wanted to see if the parts would look better on the X axis. With all the shims needed to get the pads nice and tight, my parts wouldn’t fit alongside the brand name brackets at all. However, they did fit the Y axis just beautifully, and I get to save all that time not having to shim and adjust. 

In the words of Ace Ventura, “Like a glove!”

It’s Always Something #005

Today’s mind-blowing reason it’s so hard to deal

You could call it Murphys Law. In some cases, you could call it Entropy. Just don’t call it a surprise, because we all know…

It’s always some damn thing! 

The negativity spiral. Some people think of it more linear, like a dark road you walk down, each step another ugly, degrading, demoralizing thought. The world is very cyclic by nature, so where it may seem we walk a straight path into darkness, there is indeed an ultimate point which we seem to be circling.

Anyway, I had a nightmare last Friday. Seems to be going around, judging by my feed. Mister had school, so I couldn’t just hide in bed like I really wanted. I got up, made my coffee, and joined the family at the table. Kim made breakfast and it looked good, but one challenging remark from the peanut gallery derailed my effort to convince myself to be hungry. So, without comment, I took my coffee and retreated to the bedroom. 

I felt like I actually had the fight that I just dreamt I had. There was nothing otherwise to complain about, I just felt beat up. After returning home from the school delivery, I got sucked into it. 

Kim asked me what was wrong. I told her I just felt shitty. She asked if it was her, or something she did. No, I just felt like crap. After more questioning, I told her I had a nightmare. I didn’t want to feed the negativity by adding details. I wanted to sit in silence and get my head right. 

She continued to pry. She explained that my being upset was upsetting her and wanted to know what was wrong. I tried my best to quarantine myself that morning, so being told that I failed to do so reinforced my negativity. She continued to ask what was wrong. 

The spiral. It ruined most of the day for us.

Ugh! Come the hell on, now! Of course, some thing is wrong! There are so many things wrong in my life right now, I can’t shake a hundred dollar bill at them all. If someone repeatedly asks for what’s wrong, I have an endless well of things to complain about. If you look for something to be a problem, you are going to find it. The only real problem is getting sucked into the negativity. 


There’s hardly a problem we have right now that can’t be completely solved with a liberal application of Go The Fuck To Work! 

If you stop and think negatively, there is always some damn thing. 

It’s Always Something #003

Today’s mind-blowing reason it’s so hard to deal

You could call it Murphys Law. In some cases, you could call it Entropy. Just don’t call it a surprise, because we all know…

It’s always some damn thing! 

Does anyone know a parent of a “spirited child” or have the distinct pleasure of being one themselves? Ha ha, oh boy! 

My energy Saturday morning was non existent. I woke up, and couldn’t even. The kids woke up, and I immediately wanted earplugs. I wanted to stay the hell in bed, or maybe go find a cave or big rock to hide under. 

We really pushed the school to provide daily communication for our wild child. This week, they were more forthcoming and the extent of the antics turned out to be too much to digest. Friday came, and Kim called to check in and see if, at least for the day, she had been deserving of a good behavior reward. Come to find out, the counselor had just finished bringing the morning’s situation down to a manageable level. Turns out she screamed the classroom out to the point of evacuation! The teacher literally had to line up the rest of the class and vacate the room as if she was about to set the place ablaze. 

Her mother is beside herself. The one actual surprise in all this came with a follow up text claiming that overall she did really well, therefore ought to be rewarded. There were as many principal/counselor crisis calls this week as there were school days! I try offering suggestions, but in the end my part of the mayhem was to support Kim in her struggle and run the kids at the park in the evening.  

That was enough. I’m drained. I had the parental duty to be present, but my presence wasn’t exactly a ray of sunshine. It really pains me to be out of commission on my Saturdays with my son. It pains me more that almost the only time I get a chance to recharge, I feel obligated to catch up on work instead. 

Never underestimate a child’s ability to bring adults to their knees in anguish. 

It’s Always Something #002

Today’s mind-blowing reason it’s so hard to deal

You could call it Murphys Law. In some cases, you could call it Entropy. Just don’t call it a surprise, because we all know…

It’s always some damn thing! 

Being on call… I mean, it is what it is. 

I was scheduled to install a fridge last night. The earliest I could get there was 9pm, one hour before closing. I figured I would only get a couple hours of work done with that project, so I had aimed to tackle the vent project I failed to finish on Sunday. 

Did I mention I don’t even have money for my phone bill? 

Eh, well persisting onward with the day, my sweetie paid my phone bill then went with me to the local pawn shop to pick up a maybe twice used, midrange jigsaw. Meanwhile, she did have places to be. She had an appointment to groom a dog, but never got a confirmation. Since it’s literally an hour drive at that time of day, she sure didn’t want to waste the trip. Her folks are in the same direction and were scheduled for today, so I suggested she head there, then if her original appointment did ring back, it would be an easy drive to get there. By time we got done eating breakfast (at noon) and sorting out all our little issues, it was past 3pm. 

Onward I persisted. I needed to grab my trim router off of my CNC for the refrigerator install, and more importantly, find the base plate that would otherwise never be removed in the course of using it as intended. Now, I distinctly remember finding that thing after the last time I sorely needed it. I also know I put it somewhere that would be easy to find the next time I need it. Well, yesterday was that next time, and you know from the title of this post I failed to find that stupid piece. Fuck it, I thought to myself, I’ll just use the  Mag77 and a chisel to accomplish what I need. 

You know, for those times you want a real elegant solution. 

Running late, but nevertheless en route, I get a service call. Never mind the fridge, they got breakers popping in the Alberta house left and right! I was told that it’s the busiest location, so any actual work would need to wait until close of business. 

So, the ventilation goes to the back burner for a call. I already know. I’ve heard the scoop on the Alberta house already, something along the lines of Scotty calling out, “I’m givin her all she’s got cap’n!” I go, I snoop around and get a feel of the place. I pull up some data sheets and do some math. I report to them that I’m quite amazed, as they’re pulling 80 full load amps through, ugh, 80 amps of breaker. Really, the goal is to get the steamer in operation. But, I find it pulls over 16 amps by itself!

One hour on the clock, and there is sweet fuck all I can do about the situation. I plan with them to come back before opening the next morning and at least pop an outlet in for the steamer and pull off of a nearby circuit. One damn hour to bill for. The offer to start on the fridge was still open, but knowing my alarm would be going off at 5 am, I didn’t want to start digging in to a project at 10 pm. 

I tell my girl as I crawl in bed that I have to be gone extra early, and she isn’t happy. After some tossing and turning, I start to fall asleep and my damn phone goes off. Turns out I need to do the bureaucratic fucking boogie before I can even give them a band-aid solution. They’re going to try an extension cord with the steamer that was somewhat on the fritz until a definitive solution is given the green light from the owner. I should have just done the refer after all. (That’s one ‘e’ get your mind out of the clouds!)

Service call for basically nothing. One hour of work, in bed extra late, and the girls are distressed over an orange juice incident at daycare. 

You know it’s always some damn thing!