The utility trailer frequently gets used off-road around the yard and woods for moving downed trees/branches, compost, rock, tools, etc. As a result, the standard plastic lights have taken a beating and I’ve had to replace them at least once. Since one of the lights was broken again recently I decided to upgrade them to use a standard all-metal semi trailer style light enclosure. This style of light fits better vertically than horizontally on this trailer, so I modified the enclosure to move the circular side light from the end of the light to the side. I then welded the light enclosure onto the trailer; the size of the light worked out perfectly to connect it to the old light mount and also the top rail of the trailer on each side, making it very strong. At the same time I replaced the side running lights with a low profile LED version and added a guard/deflector made from a small section of scrap rebar.
I got the idea for the monitor lift from an example online using all-thread as lead screws to drive a platform. Essentially I’m just replicating this idea but with a few tweaks that take advantage of having the lathe to make it better/stronger, easier to build, and to take advantage of spare parts I already had.
First I cut the all-thread rod to length and then I turned down one end of each to fit the inside diameter of some spare bearings. I left an extra bit on the end and turned it down to fit the inside diameter of a timing belt drive sprocket – this was later replaced with a chain sprocket due to slipping. I repeated the same on the top side of each rod (without the extra bit for the drive sprocket) and then I cut some metal brackets to hold the outer bearings. I then cut a small platform and attached two nuts to it that would connect it to the threaded rods.
These parts were all assembled into the desk; a few small shims were needed to get the rods exactly parallel. I then connected the threaded rods together with a small #25 chain drive. To power the lift I tried a few different test motors and eventually settled on the guts from a small/cheap electric screwdriver – this provided enough torque while not requiring a huge power supply. It could be a bit faster and I need to add some sound damping, but it’s working very well for an initial attempt.
I also made some mounting plates to adapt the monitors to a fixed mounting since the regular bases were too wide. The monitors were then mounted to a 2×4 that acts as a spacer and also adds strength to the platform. Once the tabletop is in place the 2×4 and the rest of the mechanism will not be visible since the monitors will rise so that their bases are just flush with the top – I’ll likely add a trim piece to block this off. The monitors also drop low enough that the table top will clear with no problems.
The last step was adding limit switches and rewiring – moving the toggle switch up runs the lift up until the positive switch is tripped, and moving the switch down runs the lift down until the lower limit switch is tripped.
Next up will be making the tabletop…
This weekend I had a chance to test the completed valve bank.
Testing revealed that some of the keys did not actuate with their corresponding valve open. On these keys when the valve (while turned ON/open) was removed from the manifold the key would strike immediately, pointing to lack of airflow through the valve as the cause. I can’t explain why this occurs on only some of the keys but the piano turns 100yrs old next year, so the inconsistency isn’t surprising. The piano could perhaps be adjusted to make these keys work the same as the rest, but I could more easily just provide more airflow via multiple valves per key – this is the approach I took. To connect multiple valves per key I created a few hollow standoffs that fit inside the valve holes in the manifold . The standoffs then have holes on their sides to allow connecting the extra valves on a 2nd layer above the rest. The end of the hole that was drilled to hollow the standoff was sealed with hot glue. Two valves solved the problem for most of the offending keys, but one extra special key required 4(!) valves in a ‘+’ configuration.
With the mechanical parts complete I’ve taken the first steps to construction of a raspberry-pi based controller that will use shift registers to power the solenoids. The raspberry pi and associated circuitry will be small enough to fit on the back of the valve manifold in the area where the paper roll would normally be. It has wireless connectivity and I plan to have it host a webpage where it can be controlled by phone/tablet. I’m bread boarding this first to prove the concept with one shift register, then once testing is complete I’ll create a circuit board to hold all 11.
A while back, in anticipation of more log milling, I made a jig for holding the chainsaw level along the length of the cut. This is basically a homemade version of an ‘Alaskan Sawmill’, with a few changes. Since I processed last winter’s log recently it made room for another in the drying area, so I finally had a chance to test out the jig this weekend. For the first cut a ladder is secured to the top of the log to establish a reference surface.
I opted on not tie the reference block into the end of the bar, since I have a limited bar length. Because of this, I also couldn’t make the reference block adjustable without introducing too much flex. Instead, I set it at the maximum board width I may need, and for all thinner boards I’ll add more wood to the block or log to shim it. This also gives me the ability to cut from both sides for a log that’s up to ~2x the bar length.
Altogether this test seemed to work great, the cut was extremely flat compared to the previous log that was cut free-hand. It was fairly slow-going though since I was using a standard chain; I have a ripping chain on order that should cut faster with the grain, I’ll install it before finishing this log.
It was only a matter of time before this happened – the player piano (original post) is a real workout to play manually. Since it works on vacuum, I had set aside the motor from an old vacuum cleaner for potential use in powering the piano. Tonight I built a small box to contain the vacuum motor and connect it to the piano. The box is made from MDF, partly because I had scrap that needed to be used, and partly because it’s very heavy & sound absorbing. I made the big fitting by cutting/milling a square from scrap, I then bored a hole in it on the lathe and welded it to a scrap of pipe.
One very large hose goes to the manifold powering all the key bellows, and another smaller hose powers the vacuum motor for the tracker/scroll mechanism. I didn’t notice the smaller connection at first, so I had to go back and tap a fitting into the connection for the large hose; there’s still enough room for both to connect though.
Overall it seems to work great, this effort was definitely a quick proof-of-concept though and I’ll need to go back and fix/test a few things:
#1 – Motor controller to slow down the vacuum motor. Currently it has way more vacuum than is actually needed and slowing down should reduce noise from the motor.
#2 – Ensure cooling is OK. Especially after slowing the motor down I need to test that air flow is good enough to keep the motor consistently cool.
#3 – Mount in piano base and complete further noise insulation.
#4 – Tee hoses (and potentially add check valves) so that manual operation still works.
Beyond that I do have plans to eventually (could be tomorrow, could be in 5yrs) automate the player mechanism using some small pneumatic solenoids I found on ebay. These would tee off of each line from the tracker bar and when they open it would simulate a hole in the paper passing by. With this it would then be computer controlled and able to play anything. By default these are off/closed, so the paper mechanism would still work fine, in computer-controlled mode I’d just need to block off the tracker bar holes with some tape.