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A Portable Storage System for Dead Tree Information Storage (Bookcase)

I (Ben Bradley) have made several of these for my personal use. My early bookcases were three feet wide, but moving was a process of putting books into boxes, moving the shelving and the boxes, and putting the books back on the shelves. It was unknown whether the bookcase would hold together if tilted while fully loaded, because it was too heavy to pick up when fully loaded

This one was assembled at Freeside after the November 5 Open House and is based on my current design, as follows:

Components used (available at any Home Depot or Lowes):
(4) 1" x 8" x 6 ft pine board (actual measurements 3/4" x 7 1/4")
(1) 4 ft by 8 ft. x 1/4" plywood board.
(48) 2" long wood or drywall screws, coarse thread preferred (about half of a 1 lb box)
(30) 1" long wood or drywall screws, coarse thread preferred (about a tenth of a 1 lb box)

Tools used:
Chop saw, table or circular saw, hand sander, electric drill/electric screwdriver (two preferred, one for drilling and one for screwing), 1/8" or 5/32" drillbit, clamp that opens to 19"


Compare the lengths of the 6-foot boards. They can differ by 1/4 inch or more. Choose the two longest for the sides. If their lengths are different, cut the longer one to match the shorter one.

Cut the two remaining ones into eight equal-length pieces. The length of 17 3/4 works well as it gives enough space for the saw kerf and a little extra for variations in length.

Sand one side of each of these (this will be the top side where books rest on it), and on one long edge, sand a "curve" along the edge so it is rounded off. Alternately, use a roundover bit in a router to round this edge.

Put the side edge of the first or "bottom" shelf piece against the side of one of the side pieces at one end. A clamp may help here. The rounded edge should NOT be next to the bottom of the side.

The diameter of the hole drilled for screws depends on the screw size used. Older projects used #6 drywall screws, where a 1/8" drill bit work well, but the Home Depot used for parts for this project only had #6 (slightly larger) screws, and a 5/32" bit was used successfully.

Drill a hole about one inch from the front or back edge so that it goes through the side and into the shelf piece equidistant from the top and bottom (for a 3/4" shelf this will be 3/8" from the edge, but I always eyeball it as the center - it's good enough), and into the wood about as far as the screw will go, or perhaps 1/4" less than the screw (set the drikk into the chuck to extend this distance). Be sure to drill straight, so the hole is parallel to the shelf and the screw won't come through.

Screw the screw in, using a drywall screw setter bit. This is a Phillips bit with a metal ring around it that will cause the bit to slip out of the screw once it is just below flush with the wood. This gives excellent strength and prevents accidentally screwing the screw too far into the side, which is easily done with an electric drill/screwdriver.

Drill a second hole the same one inch distance from the other side and put a screw in it. Drill a third hole midway between the other two and put a screw in it. I do it in this order as it's easier to eyeball the middle of the board near the edge, and then it's easier to make the hole in the middle midway between the other two that are already drilled.

Drill the other side of the shelf to the other side piece as above, so that the two side pieces are parallel.

Make two "spacer" pieces of wood using scrap (such as a length of 1" x 8" or smaller), exactly 9 3/4" long. This will be the distance between shelves, and determines the height of the books that will fit between the shelves. Be sure the top and bottom edges of these pieces are parallel, as this is needed for the shelves to all be horizontal.

Put the two spacer pieces along the side pieces and touching the bottom shelf, and place a second shelf between the sides so it touches the other ends of the spacers. This gives a precision height to the shelf without measuring. Make sure the rounded over edge of the shelf is on the same side as the rounded over edge of the bottom shelf. Drill holes and use screws to attach this shelf. Pull out the spacer pieces. They may be moderately tight, but can usually be removed by hand.

Continue attaching shelves in this way until you get to the top shelf. Align the top of the top shelf with the tops of the side pieces, and drill and screw it.

Cut the 4' x 8' by 1/4" plywood to the dimensions of the back of the bookcase, which should be about 19 1/4" x 6 feet. Align it with the back (the side opposite the rounded over shelf edges), and attach it using 1" screws spaced about every six inches.

This bookcase is for Octavo sized books, and the top shelf is just large enough for mass-market paperback books. I've made a similar shelf that fits (almost?) all Quarto sized books and magazines with 1" x 10" boards cut about 14" wide (five shelves per 6-foot plank, seven shelves per bookcase) and with 11 3/4" spacing between the shelves.

These bookcases may weigh 200 lbs fully loaded, but can be moved by one person with a handtruck. Push on the side until the bottom lifts up, put down on the handtruck, then pull back with one foot on the handtruck axle, and move while balanced as shown in the photograph. It can lay down in a pickup truck bed, or stand up in a tall enclosed truck with it tied to the walls.

How we built the Infinity Portal

Some of you may have seen our most recent monster creation at Alchemy or Atlanta Mini Maker Faire - The Infinity Portal.

The Infinity Portal is a 10 foot tall archway with a 7 x 4 ft infinity mirror inside of it. The mirror is made with two-way acrylic, so you can push on it to warp the effect for people on either side of it. It is lit with addressable LEDs, so there is a counter-rotating rainbow vortex in there too. You may remember seeing our write-up about prototyping the design a few months ago.

Defying all expectations, the thing actually survived both events that we brought it to! So we're really happy with it and will find a place to keep it in the mean time.

We actually (surprisingly) did a pretty good job of documenting this build, so we cut it together into a video to show how we built this huge, epic piece of art. Enjoy!

This Week at Freeside

Again with the weekly (more or less...) list of delectable offerings by Freeside, your friendly local dragon and hamster breeder.

Sunday, 10/20: Freeside Laser: Basic Usage and Safety at 2pm
Learn how to use Freeside's new Laser Engraver/Cutter (wiki page). You'll learn how to use the software toolchains to cut or engrave vector and bitmap artwork into a variety of materials. And after the class, you'll be eligible to schedule a one-on-one session an approved user to supervise and assist with your first project, and thereby gain authorization to use the laser unsupervised. That's right. Just you and the laser. $40/person. Pay on Meetup.

Tuesday, 10/22: Chump Car Build at 7pm
Ever wanted to race a car, build a moving art project, or learn to work on a car? Here is your chance to do one or all three! Please join us at Freeside to learn more! And it's totally free, man.

And simultaneously...

Tuesday, 10/22: Open House at 7:30pm
Where the house is open, and the tours are free. If this is your first time to visit Freeside, or you want to hang out with the members, here's your best chance. Happens every week, but you want to go this week, I promise. Free, so long as you are more than 50% organic, original human material.

Wednesday, 10/23 and Thursday, 10/24: 
Introduction to Electricity, Magnetism, and Energy at 7:30pm
In this class you will learn the terminology of electricity, magnetism and energy. You will learn some of the history behind the works and discoveries of Einstein, Maxwell, Tesla, Faraday and many other experimenters and theorists from the past to the present. We will not avoid discussing controversial aspects of the differences in the views of these larger-than-life individuals. Two nights only! (Attend one or both nights!) $20/person. Pay on Meetup.

As always, check out the Meetup for more info, and to RSVP to classes and stuff. And don't forget to take a snapshot and email it to me!

May the rest of your Octuber be spudtaculous.

Trading Post: Milling Edition

Step right up, ladies and gents!  Never seen such fine taxidermy before?  The best in all the land!

I see a lot of disappointed faces - you there, reading the article!  You some kind of Internet-dwelling, city slicker?  Oh, you are.  Very well then - that's totally not a problem!  What's that you say?  What's going on?!

Welcome to the Trading Post - tales from the wild and unsane world of hackerspace skills trading.

One of the key benefits to being part of a community of skilled people with diverse backgrounds is that you're surrounded by opportunities to try something new and learn from each other.

Whether you're into taxidermy, python, arduinos, or rebuilding arcade machines, you can leverage your skill set to learn new skills from other hackerspace members.  If you successfully find a match, then that's what we at Freeside call The Gift of the Magi moment.  Cherish it.

This week, I promised Paul I'd get his website hosted and up and running with Wordpress.  In exchange, he'd let me take his Introduction to Milling class for free.

My project was simple: machine a new set of jaws for Freeside's bench vice.

The first step in the process is measure, measure, and measure again.  It was little later reflecting on all this that I realized all that talk in middle school about proper measurement and significant figures.  We spent a good hour on the measurements themselves.  After some quick instruction with calipers, and how to draw the plans for the part, I went through and filled in all the measurements, twice - then Paul re-measured, and we were good to go.

Freeside has a vertical mill on loanation from Paul.  It's a pretty awesome machine - it wasn't until I actually got hands-on experience with it that I got some serious appreciation for how versatile it is.  The first thing I learned how to do was to aligning the machine vice.  A dial indicator was traversed across a machine square, and put the vice in alignment.  So, in a sense, more measuring.  Accuracy is king - Paul told me we could machine at a thickness less than a human hair.  This is more than enough for our bench vice jaws!

The milling itself is a straight-forward process, once you understand how the measurement on each axis corresponds to the measurements on the part's plans.  At some point, we had to make some spindle speed adjustments by changing the belts.

After all the milling was done, we drilled out the screw holes, and used another bit to taper them.  The final step is to use a file to smooth out each edge of the machined part.

The end product is that there to the right.  Shiny!

Although I ran out of the time we had agreed on to finish the pipe jaws together, Paul added those in later.  Now, we just need one more to complete the set!

We had a small scare trying it out on the bench vice, when the screw holes didn't line up properly.  It just ended up being a matter of not having them wide enough, so crisis averted!

Besides making something useful for Freeside, I really got a serious appreciation for all the time and skill that goes into manufacturing.  There's some interesting problem solving that I wasn't used to, especially when you're faced with the constraint of one mistake completely messing up the part.

Atlanta Mini Maker Faire - Learn to Solder - Call for Volunteers

It's about time for Atlanta Mini Maker Faire 2013 (10/26). LearnToSolder.org and Freeside Atlanta are once again hosting a free Learn to Solder tent. Last year's tent was a huge success, teaching around 100 kids (aged 4 to 80) how to solder together a basic electronic kit. This year, we hope to double that number, but we need help!

We've got all the supplies, irons, solder, project kits, helping hands, band aids and burn gel. What we need are volunteers to supervise and mentor the kids in constructing the kits. These kits are simple, and designed for first timers, but gives them something they can be proud of and show off. You're there to help troubleshoot (solder bridges, cold joints), teach (show them how to do the first joint), and supervise (make sure they know which end of the iron is the hot one), etc.

Sign up for a shift (as many as you want!) today!

Information about the AMMF: http://makerfaireatl.com/

This years Learn to Solder kit: http://www.makershed.com/Learn_to_Solder_Skill_Badge_Kit_p/mkls01.htm

This Week at Freeside

Hello to all. I hope you're having a fabulous week, made even more tantalizing with the following offerings from Freeside for your enjoyment and edification.

Sunday, 10/6 Liberated Tech Pre-Build and Build at 1pm
Tuesday, 10/8 Chump Car Build at 7pm and Open House at 7:30
Wednesday, 10/9 TED Talks and Discussion Night at 7pm
Thursday, 10/10 CryptoParty at 8pm
Saturday, 10/12 Bicycle Repair 1 at 3pm and Freeside Build Day (and potluck) all afternoon.

And if when you head over to one or more of these events, go ahead and take pictures, share ideas, dig yourself eye-ball deep, and make the space a part of yourself, just as you are a part if it.

Have ideas for classes or events at the space? Get in touch! The only limit is yourself.


An End to a Legacy: Painting Over the Mural

Great numbers turned out to fight the good fight on Thursday. Together we faced the mural and, each in our own hearts, said words over the icon that had been the auditorium mural. I had hated the mural, but in spreading the first layer of grey-green over the inaccurately spray-painted earth, I realized that I did not hate it, but loved it, in its passing, as a metaphor, a cautionary tale. It represents what happens when art and science are separated. Like a guitar tuned to .05 Hz below standard. Like a sculpture slowly collapsing from lack of structural support. The moon, so obstinately shining on the far side of the sun, was a reminder that only together can artists and engineers accomplish beautiful and functional things.

We should all take care to remember that, as we move forward into a brave new age that contains 3D-printers, makerspaces, and DIY culture. Engineers, do not sneer at the BA's of the world. Artists, do not abstain from telling technical types that their designs are fugly (very nicely, of course). And you creatures who have a foot in both lands, do not reject one side of yourself. Only together can we prevent the Bad Astronomy Mural from happening again. Only together can we see the sun's own light shine on the correct side of the moon.

A metaphor for art without science

A metaphor for rising above, on very sturdy ladders.

Helping Rachel from Liberated Tech take apart things for the art party while paint dried.

A blank canvas, a metaphor for what we made, itself a metaphor. It is an infinity mirror of metaphors, if you will humor me, and even if you won't.

Motobrain: High Tech Automotive Power Distribution Unit

It's been about a year since my last Kickstarter, a failed attempt to launch a mini USB host Arduino compatible mirocontroller platform. I am back for a double helping of humble pie. This time, my project is a Bluetooth 4 enabled automotive power distribution unit (PDU) and solid state fuse block. I go into great detail of the details of the project at my website motobrain.net and at the Kickstarter page. Suffice to say, it is a really smart, smartphone programmable, PDU with 8 outputs and 4 inputs. The inputs are used to link outputs logically with other circuits (either OEM circuits or custom switches or sensors).

It is a very flexible system. For example, you can setup your aux fog lights to turn on with the ignition BUT it will also turn them off whenever you turn on the high beams. The PDU can sense the ignition and you can program circuits to turn on the in response to the ignition and by linking the high beams to one of the inputs you can program the PDU to shut down the fog lights when that input wire goes to 12V. It may sound a little complicated, and I suppose it is, but it is not hard to do either.

 The Kickstarter launch went great. We reached 10% of our goal in an hour. At 3 days into the campaign we've reached about 30% of the goal so I have to be pleased with the progress we've made. Yesterday we quite a bit of press as well and I think it will put us over the top eventually. Engadget and Hackaday both ran stories and we had mad traffic at the website.

ProCSS Your Styles

Do you need to brush up on your CSS-fu? Freeside is hosting ProCSS, a professional CSS development lecture and workshop Saturday, September 7th 3:00 PM. ProCSS is a people-first look at what makes code good, and how CSS development can be organized for rapid development of front-ends with minimal fuss from browsers and whiny clients. Students will be taught to abandon improvised ("hacky") workflows in favor of a more pragmatic approach that keeps work simple as projects get complicated. The techniques taught in this course apply to dinky five page websites and to enterprise scale web applications.

ProCSS is for people who have used CSS, but who need more practice or a better way of doing things. Experienced CSS developers can also benefit from learning new tools introduced in the course, such as CSS preprocessors and component libraries.

Attending the course gets you lecture notes, source code and an one hour long workshop hosted by an experienced front-end developer. The open source examples are open for students to contribute to on GitHub, which means you can pad your resume for helping other students while sharpening your skills.

ProCSS teaches you what CSS development is really about, and what it means to future-proof both your web application and your outlook on web development.

You can't learn this stuff in tutorials!

If you want in on this, RSVP on Meetup.

Hacker Trips: Making Awesome

This is the first of what are (hopefully) many installments of Hacker Trips - encounters of the first and fourth kind with other hackerspaces throughout the country.  Freeside knows no bounds; our members appear and disappear throughout the world!  We're coming to your hackerspace and it's gonna be OK!  My own travels are likely going to take me to the DenHac sooner rather than later, so I'm definitely planning to report on that.

Tallahassee, Florida.  The word Tallahassee means "abandoned fields" in Seminole.  It is a town of about 180,000 residents, home to FSU and FAMU colleges which turns the city into a ghost town during winter and spring breaks.  Tallahassee kind of looks like a shrunken Atlanta - complete with its own perimeter, airport, and transit system.  I grew up in Tallahassee.  I have fond memories as a child of traversing its fine ground water drainage system that linked all the neighborhoods together, and some parts of downtown, like the old DOT building.  Days of feigned illnesses and put home from school spent unproductively wandering into random backyards or behind government office building shrubbery.  

No dice if you seek manatees, but plenty of turtles and the occasional alligator one must take care not upset while engaged in psuedo-urban trekking.  If there's anything Tallahassee does have is a super abundance of wildlife, forest, and a unique concentration of allergens that defined my destiny.  When I didn't have my face buried into a tissue during the pollen season I was stuck at home, behind an air filter, reading.  No regrets!

There's a handful of fun stuff to do in Tallahassee while you're there.  You can eat the pizza slice bigger than your head at Momo's!  Shoot a game of pool over cheap beer and get served free pizza at Poor Paul's!  There's cool food trucks, art, and live music at Railroad Square.  While you're there, you can also catch a documentary that details how Edward Ball exploited every single square inch of Wakulla Springs.

This past Sunday, I was able to make a pass through Tallahassee and visit Making Awesome (MA).  MA is a 5000sqft, free-standing facility located on a community college campus over on the west side of town.  Had I known about Making Awesome as a young person, maybe I might have picked up on a few skills after school I could be using today.  They share the hackerspace ethos and Freeside vision of providing an environment where exploration and play with technology is encouraged.

There I met with David Brightbill, one of the founders and president of MA, and he quickly put a beer in my hand faster than I could say, "Bully!" We talked at length about our experiences running hackerspaces, trading war stories and the whatnot.  It was a pretty chill space, but you could tell its members definitely enjoyed using all parts of the Making Awesome for their projects.  He took me on a tour of the space.

First thing I thought was great was their access control system.  Here's parts one, two and three of their write up on how they got it working.  Although it's a wired system (in contrast to what we're trying to do with Vuvuzela) it was inspiring to see the whole set up together.  They, too, share a love for the Raspberry Pi so we spent a good while talking about our different approaches.  They've also got plans in the works to create an access system where the RFID card has to rest on a sort of flat reader in order to render a machine operational.  Just a heads up, MA - we'll be copying you on that one.  Let's work together - like the co-mod!

MA has not one, but two CNC machines - one is huge, a 4ft square or maybe 5ft square machine (my eyeballs are spaced weird so who knows) that had some foam swords sitting on it - no doubt, bound for Dragon*Con.  Seeing foam pieces carved into fantastical shapes has got to be some kind of international symbol of trustworthiness.  The other CNC machine is this beautiful machine to the right.  It's a work in progress, but David tells me that when it's completed they'll be slicing through metal like a Talking Heads video.

This wooden thing redefined my architecture.   It's a giant, mobile, tool storage gazebo.  It has all the right places to stow away the tools.  I had intense and wild visions of tools getting stored properly at Freeside if this thing was around.  You could basically push it over to whatever you were working on.  They took that same concept from musicals where the piano is on casters and turned it into a useful thing.  This could appear at Freeside in some kind of musical production.  Grease meets the Village People, directed by John Waters, or such as: everybody dancing with this thing.  I want to dance with it.  It's a world of possibilities.

This was a particularly cool project - Launchpad: Moon - an educational economics board game designed at MA as part of the NASA Space Apps challenge.  It was inspiring to see the laser cut board and pieces!  I've mentioned it a few times but I'm trying to be super sneaky about turning our Analog Game Night attendees into the wonderful world of game development and prototyping.

 Finally, we rounded out the tour with visiting their hydraulic press (watch your hands!), the radial arm saw (watch your arms!), and a totally legit 1930's sewing machine.

It was lots of fun to spend a few hours with the Making Awesome gentlefolk.  If you're ever in Tallahassee for reasons, then you should definitely stop by.  You'll both feel right at home and simultaneously also be made to feel at home!