Gplus YouTube E-mail RSS

Three Parametric Solid 3D CAD Systems You Can Get For (Almost) Free

Published on October 23, 2014, by in Uncategorized.

Over the last few days, I’ve been looking for affordable (hopefully free) design software that I can continue to use for part design.  I had a student version of Inventor who’s license was coming to an end.  When I got this software I had a .edu email address that was still active.  At the time, a .edu email address was required to get the software.  Since I didn’t have one anymore, I began to look for other options that wouldn’t cost me $3000 to $6000+.

The first thing I looked at was FreeCAD.  FreeCAD is an open source parametric modeling software that is based on the openCASCADE kernel.  It is really nice software for open source solutions.  That said, it currently lacks the ability to model assemblies of solid bodies.  I do A LOT of this kind of modeling when I make woodworking projects.  It helps me make sure all of my dimensions are correct before I start cutting parts and make sure that everything will fit.  It also lacks the ability to export DXF drawings at the moment.  So this would not suit my needs.

I then looked at Solid Works to see if I could qualify for some kind of discount.  They do have student/educator intensives which bring the price down to less than $200, which is great.  However, what I found really interesting was the veteran program.  If you are a veteran and have your honorable discharge papers, you can get Solid Works for $20/year.  That’s awesome!  The only thing is I am not a veteran.  My dad is, but the licence does not let my dad get it and me use it, so that was out.

I went through a bunch of other cad demos of mid priced solutions.  The one I liked the best was Geomagic by 3D Systems (formerly Alibre).  They produce an Inventor-Like program at a cost between $500 and $2000.  Their solutions do allow both part and assembly modeling.  The $500 solution is the personal edition.  It would be fine, but the software is limited to 32 bits which makes the largest model usable at 2GB. The $1000 solution is the Design Elements.  It is quite capable of doing what I need it to do.  The only feature it doesn’t have that I would use is the import/export of native Inventor files.  The $2000 solution does everything.  I was going to go with the $1000 solution, UNTILL…

I went back to look at the Inventor free versions and found out that they now offer a 3 year license to students, teachers, and MENTORS.  I am one of those as I mentor college students at work and church!!!  YEAH!!! I can get free 3d CAD legally!!!!!


Porter Cable Cordless 4.5″ Angle Grinder

Published on October 22, 2014, by in Uncategorized.

Had a break in the middle of my project because I’m waiting on some parts, so I decided to review one of my recent tool purchases. I bought it at Lowes for $35. Tool buying tip: go find a sale online and ask the cashiers to price match. Lowes has a price +10% guarantee. Then you get another 5% if you put it on your Lowes credit card.

See my video review:


Ceiling Hung, Folding Sheet Good Storage Rack, Part 3

Published on October 17, 2014, by in Uncategorized.

I got the bottom supports, the backstop and the hing brackets on.  Check it out!


Ceiling Hung, Folding Sheet Good Storage Rack, Part 2

Published on October 12, 2014, by in Uncategorized.

I got the glue up finished.  It is constructed like a hollow core door.  The half lap structure and method of construction ensure that any twisted lumber gets flattened out and that the entire frame ends up square and flat.  Check it out!

Oh, did I mention that the kind of structure (a tortion box) is incredibly strong and stiff as you can see from me sitting on the frame.  It has to hold 600 lbs of sheet goods.


Ceiling Hung, Folding Sheet Good Storage Rack

Published on October 10, 2014, by in Projects.

Well,  the woodworking season is upon us again (that’s winter for those of you who don’t know).  I’m back in the shop and having fun!  This year, I plan on making a few improvements in the shop to help organize my space and my tools.  The first thing I plan on doing is making a sheet good storage system.  I came up with a design that gets the sheets up out of the way so I can use the wall space more effectively.  Check it out!


Basically, the idea is to create a pivot that allows you to rotate the storage rack down.  The top then folds open to form a “V” shape which allows you to flip through the sheets and pick out what you want.  Once you have it picked out or loaded up, you can fold it closed and get it up next to the ceiling where it is out of the way.

This is only the first part of making it.  Stay tuned for more!


Computer Cart Project Update

Published on March 26, 2013, by in Projects.


I didn’t want you to think that I had forgotten about all of you.  I have almost finished the computer cart.  The main box is done and the drawers are cut but not assembled.  I forgot to order the 1/4 inch plywood for the drawer bottoms until yesterday (minor oversight right???… I have a full time job and a family so you’ll have to forgive me).  Anyhow, those things happen for a reason right?  I came down with the flue or a bad cold so I wouldn’t have been able to finish the project right now anyhow.

Just a few “lessons” I’ve learned so far:

1) the “blond wood” plywood at Lowes is significantly better than the plywood they used to have, but it is basically grade CC or X with the thinnest veneer possible slapped on top.  It looks good, but don’t try to sand it or anything… if you look at it wrong it will chip and fall off.  Plus when you cut it, the thin veneer falls apart into these nasty little slivers that get you really good.  This plywood will work for your projects, but not for anything you really want to look nice.  For this “utility” furniture, it is ok, but not fun.

2) If your local lowes or home depot has a “commercial” department, they can order you some better plywood.  I got a quote for B2B plywood at $52/sheet if I ordered in multiples of 10 sheets.  That is really good for domestic birch ply these days.

3) it is worth getting a compression bit to cut your parts from ply.  I used a down spiral bit and I had a lot of cleanup to do on the bottom face.

4) 75 in/min is too fast to cut with a 1/8″ bit.  The bit I bought for the “dog bones” was broke in about 15 seconds.  That cost me about $1/second to run :(.  I thought I was done cutting for a few days before I even got my first sheet cut until I realized that I had an 1/8″ bit in my Dremmel pack.  I used it to finish the project with mediocre results.  The bit has a cutting length of almost 1.5″ and it is HSS not carbide so it flexed a LOT and I ended up cleaning up a lot of corners with a file and chisel.  Loads of hand work.

5) For some reason my dado’s did not end up as wide as they should have been.  I measured the actual bit diameter and programmed the machine.  I thought it may have been flex in my rig, but even running a single pass, the cut was not as wide as the bit.  I have come to the conclusion that this cheap plywood uses alternating layers of hard and soft wood and that it creates a “spongy” dynamic when the plywood gets cut.  You can feel it if you try to press your finger nail into the plies.  The net result is that a pocket is not as wide as you programmed so oversize your dado’s and or your mortise pockets by at least 1/32. I don’t know if better plywood would cut nicer, but I suspect it would.

Despite all the problems, this project is coming together and was a tremendous learning experience.  If I had to change one thing, it would definitely be the plywood I used.  However, for a utility piece like this, I am not sure that an extra $20/sheet is worth it.  I also regret breaking that bit because the corners would have turned out so much better.


Project 002: Inlay Banding the Easy Way… CNC Router

Published on March 18, 2013, by in Projects.


I was perusing YouTube and looking at woodworking videos.  I came across AppJourneyman’s series on inlay banding.  He did a phenomenal job making the banding from a whole lot of cut up pieces.  I have done segmented woodworking like this in the past making picture frames and it is a lot of work and time (but a whole lot of fun as well).  The project was actually really really easy.  I used a 90 degree V-bit to create a diamond pattern in the wood.  The cut files were ultimately very simple… just a set of lines that I connected to make a zigzag pattern and then an offset.  I made the line pattern 3/16″ apart and the cut depth 3/32″.  That makes the diagonal of the square pieces 3/16″.  I set the z height for each cut manually.  That touch plate makes life very easy!

Check out the video… Also learned a few more video editing tricks that help a lot!

I’ll put the vectric files up on the downloads page soon.  You can use them to create a wide variety of patterns depending on how you set your z heights and what order you run the files in.


CNC Router Build

Published on March 16, 2013, by in Machine Builds.

Decided to post a link to the video series that I did while building the CNC so you would have a reference here to the process and get a sense as to what it takes to build a CNC router for your self.  You’ll have to deal with some shaky video as I hadn’t gotten my IPhone Camera Mount built yet.

The full playlist can be found here.  The first video in the series is posted below.  You can see where I started with my shop too.  This was only a few months ago.


CNC Computer Cart: Project Preview

Published on March 16, 2013, by in Project Previews.


I thought I would take the time to give you a project preview of what I will be making next week.  It is a rolling computer cart with storage for tools, jigs, and fixtures.  It features 5 drawers capable of holding 100lbs each a shelf to keep your computer on and an eye level monitor mount.  It is designed to be used while standing and will provide ample room to set your gear on while you work.  The work surface will be about 42″ of the floor and will be roughly 32″ x 22″.  The box is made from 1/2″ plywood (12 mm) and is constructed using a modern variant of the traditional wedged mortise and tenon joint.  This should be a really fun project and something that is very useful around the shop.  Look for the files to appear on the site sometime after next weekend (3/23/2013).  I like to build and test the project before I release it so that you get something that works.  Anyhow, enjoy!


Added More Project Files

Published on March 11, 2013, by in Uncategorized.


I finally had time to get a couple more projects up on the projects page for you.  I added a cut file to make a bunch of push sticks and the file to make the bathtub tray that you may have seen on my youtube channel.  Also I figured out how to make the downloads restricted instead of the page so I was able to open that up for all to view without registering.

If there is interest, I can get the bowl gouge sharpening jig up there too… I haven’t had time and I don’t know if people would want that.  Please post if you want to get a hold of it.  My dad say’s it works really well on his slow speed grinder.  It’s basically the same jig as you see here.