Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Famous Daddy

In my line of work, I often give test facility tours. About half of them are to people unfamiliar with high vacuum testing or electric propulsion. I actually think I do fine with these, because rather than point at some big steel and spew a bunch of large numbers than no one can relate to, I try to teach a bit using colloquial terms and comparisons to everyday things.

Instead of saying that the water flow rate of Plum Brook's B2 test stand is a quarter-million gallons of water per minute, I compare it to the flow over the Bridal Veil Falls at Niagara. It's much easier to picture and appreciate.

Anyway, this week I was asked to cover a tour of the GRC Electric Propulsion Laboratory for a group of VIP visitors in to observe the re-enactment of the Center's ground breaking of 75 years ago. I was a test engineer there, a researcher, and its manager so I tend to be able to tailor my talk to a variety of audiences.

So I gave my spiel and found it well-received. Among the audience members was a local weatherman for the WKYC television station who, like everyone else, was busy taking pictures and asking the occasional question.

The next day, when I got to the lab I was greeted as "Hollywood" instead of the usual Jay Z. The guys had seen me on the news that morning. Heh. I'm quick to dish it out, so it was all good fun to be on the receiving end of the ribbing.

I don't know how long this link will remain active, so here's a still shot of me giving that talk.

No one was as thrilled as my daughter, though, to know that her dad appeared, albeit briefly, on television.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Bones of Winter Project

I use remodeling as a creative outlet for myself. This year is no different and, like always, there's a back story.

Our house has a wonderful area in the living room for an entertainment center. However, it's never been much of a priority for us. Our son sticks his fingers in his mouth, even right after eating, so pretty much anything and everything he touches goes to crap. That is one of the reasons we still have a tube TV in our living room. The other is, well, a lack of a good mounting arrangement.

You see, that lovely wall niche also houses many of the home's services running up its back wall. Duct work, pipes, power lines - they fill that wall and any stud finder lights up like a Christmas tree on that wall.

One idea was to make a horizontal cabinet. Perhaps mount a board to hold a TV wall mount. Fine ideas, but it doesn't really help pull the room together. It may not be a selling point to its next owners. I've just not been 100% sold on anything.

Except this year I'm done waiting and I don't want to just buy something out of Best Buy.



So I bought some character hickory plywood and some solid 1 x 2 character hickory and I'm going to make a TV table and a matching coffee table.

Here's the idea in a nutshell. Cut the solid hickory to length with mitered ends. Glue and screw to the edges of the plywood. Use I-Semble brackets between these tabletops to build the pieces. That's it. Oh, just using a simple polyurethane coating to the wood. That way, it will match our character hickory floors and, when we leave, they can come with us as a reminder of our first (and only) home.

Like I always tell folks - if you can piece together some particle board crap that comes flat packed in a cardboard box, you can make simple furnishings that cost less, look better, and last longer.

One thing of note is that hickory is heavy. Really, really heavy. I believe it is the densest hardwood native to the US. I had spaghetti arms after lugging just that amount of wood into the basement. I'm just saying that those are going to be some serious pieces of furniture.

For those so inclined to try something similar, the brackets I bought from Rockler (scored a half-price sale - they have them often). The wood I got from Keim Lumber, pre-milled to my specifications. In total less than five hundred dollars, delivered (about four hundred for the lumber and another hundred in hardware). Yes, you read that right. I sent Keim a cut list and sketch on how I wanted the plywood broken down and they cut it for me (something like $5 per cut) and delivered it to my house for free. I don't own a table saw and breaking sheet goods using a circular saw and guides is fine, but getting it cut for you is finer. Again, I'm not doing much more than I would if I were putting something store-bought together.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Birthday Tradition

It seems that my daughter likes when I make her a silly little "cheesecake" pie out of a graham cracker crust and premade cheesecake filling. Granted, I get fancy with doctoring the things up, but they're almost zero effort.

Lime (2014)

Lemon (2015)

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Silly Little Shelf

So my wife wanted a shelf unit with limited dimensions to fit into the corner of her classroom and to hold a specific set of books. I didn't have the right scrap to make it, so I bought some crappy, solid pine from the BORG and got to work.

I have all of $14 invested in this.


I did a couple new things with this. I used my router to cut dados across a couple 1x2s. They're 3/4-in wide and 1/4-in deep. The other thing I did was fill in the pocket holes used on the upper shelf with flush-cut dowels. I bought a 3/8 dowel for a dollar and just glued short lengths of it in the pocket holes and cut them off. An orbital sander made quick work flattening those out as well as cleaning up any minor misalignment.

Since this was for my wife, I added her name to it.


Lower case, so that it takes on the second meaning of aspiration and optimism. 

Anyway, I expect that this will work well in her room. Simple to the point of being rustic.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Denver Business Trip

I am NASA Glenn's representative to the AIAA Space Simulation Working Group. This year, we met in Denver. In addition to a few days of presentations we toured the test facilities of both Lockheed-Martin and Ball Aerospace.

For our outing evening, we went to a train museum and a restaurant in Boulder.

Train Museum

Trip Photos