Modular Raised Planting Bed

I built a raised planting bed using deck rail planters.  This allows each planter to be moved to different locations within the bed, or to be removed from the bed entirely, allowing the bed to be  (relatively) easily moved.

I used pressure treated 2×4’s to make a simple ladder like frame, held up by four legs resting on 4×4 PT ground contact rated timbers. After painting the pressure treated 2x4s with exterior paint, I expect it to last a good long time.

In my effort to reduce daily chores, I’ve installed a drip irrigation system on a timer. Once the plants get established I hope that the drip irrigation system will soak enough of the containers so that I can stop misting the surface.

Cedar Closet System

I built a closet system for our new closet.

Here is my first video, which shows how I installed the top shelf.

Here is the second video, which shows how to install the shelf cleats and hanging rods.

Here is the final video where I show off some extra work I did that probably wasn’t entirely necessary.

New charging inlet & Drive Away Protection


So, this happened. A year and a half of meaning to get around to installing the drive away protection circuit later, I eventually drove away while the J1772 charger was plugged in, which yanked my inlet out of the truck, breaking the plastic air dam in the process. (Luckily, my EVSE wasn’t damaged.)  $150 later, I had a new J1772 inlet and air dam, and had to re-do all of my mounting work. I took this opportunity to re-work how the license plate mounted. Instead of tipping up (which shielded the inlet from view and made it hard to plug in without kneeling) I decided to make it slide to the side so that it would be easier to see and plug into the inlet. I used a 12″ stainless steel drawer slide (with self/soft closing features to keep it closed) for the motion.

Mounting the 15 amp RV inlet, button, and rotary switch was a simple matter of drilling the appropriately sized holes, but the J1772 inlet needed a custom mounting block that would match the interior contour of the air dam so that it could be recessed behind the license plate.

I assembled a stack of laser cut plywood into a block with the correct bolt pattern and cutout for the J1772 inlet, and then I sanded it down to match the interior contour of the air dam. I painted it black and mounted it to the inside of the air dam, and then screwed the inlet to the back of the block.

I also hooked up my drive away protection circuit. Here is a video of the finished system in operation.

Megatree: Materials & Costs

So, what do you need to build a large digitally color controlled LED outdoor Christmas tree display? (Commonly called a “megatree” by people in the Christmas display community.) And how much will it cost?

First, you need strings of color controlled RGB LED lights, wires to connect them, and a few power supplies. I bought 16 strands that have 50 lights each, with 6″ spacing (PixaBulb w/ Strawberry lens) from (I also got a 17th strand as a spare, and am using it as my tree topping star right now). This cost me $650 (including extra connection wires & two 12 volt power supplies).

Then you’ll need a light controller. I bought a Falcon 16V3 from for $210, and a CableGuard CG-1500 outdoor enclosure to protect it from the elements. (This enclosure holds the controller board, but is not large enough for the two power supplies, which I have under a better ventilated anti-rain plastic storage box)

Then you’ll need a lot of mounting hardware (lag eyes, quick connect links, etc) and wire ropes (small cables, cable thimbles & crimp connectors) plus zipties, lots and lots of zipties. I used stainless steel hardware from except for the galvanized wire rope that I bought at Harbor Freight (shipping a 500′ spool of stainless 3mm cable was prohibitively expensive). Including miscellaneous pieces of wood I used for my mounting ring and star tree-topper, a few extension cords, tent pegs and a 100′ run of Ethernet cable, all of this hardware cost me around $245.

I’m not including the cost of all the tools needed, plus a laptop to sequence and control the show.

So all in, for a “mid-sized” megatree (20′ tall, 16′ diameter at the base) you are looking at a little over a thousand dollars (plus a hundred hours of work). On the plus side, this cost can be amortized over multiple years, so it’s cheaper than multiple years of fireworks. Plus, with some creative work, you could re-purpose the lights for Halloween, weddings, parties, etc…


A more specific list of mounting hardware:

4x 1/2″ x 6″ Stainless Steel Lag Eye Bolts – Mounted in my tree. Completely overkill for supporting my relatively lightweight megatree, but may be re-purposed in the future for heavier loads. Holds up 4 support cables that allow me to raise/lower my top support ring.
20x 3/16″ Stainless Quick Links – for connecting and disconnecting the four support cables and top ends of the light strands to the top ring. I bought a 50 pack from a Chinese seller on ebay, as stainless steel quick links were quite expensive otherwise.
40x 1/8″ Light Duty Stainless Steel Wire Rope Thimble – Used at the top and bottom of each light strand, plus for the cables that lift the top ring.

40x 1/8″ Zinc Plated Copper Sleeve – Crimp connectors that hold the cable in place around the thimble. (Buy the proper crimping tool for these.)

16x 3/16″ x 1″ Stainless Steel Lag Eye Bolt – For connecting the top of the light strands to the top ring.
4x Eye bolts, washers & nuts to mount in the top ring for the support cables to connect to. (forgot the exact size, bought them at Lowes)
4x 4″ Stainless Steel Flag Pole Cleats – My jury-rigged solution for holding the four cables that support the top ring. I’m sure you could come up with a better solution.
16x 9″ tent pegs (bought at Walmart) for staking down the ends of the light strands.
8 packages 100′ 3mm galvanized wire rope from Harbor Freight (16 26′ light strands, 4 50′ support cables, leaving several 20′ seconds left over…) I seriously considered buying a 500′ spool of 1/8″ stainless cable from, but the added shipping cost made it prohibitively expensive. I’m willing to pay double for stainless, but not quadruple to get it shipped to me. Plus I figure the LED light strands will probably fail before the 3mm wire rope rusts through….
800-900 black zipties from harbor freight (to hold the lights to the light strand cables.
Misc deck screws to hold the top support ring together (made of 2×4’s) and mount the flag pole cleats and cable guard enclosure to the tree.

Nexus 7 (2013) QI charging frame

I bought this inductive QI charger which is designed for cell phones, but also charges my Nexus 7 tablet. The only problem is that the tablet needs to be precisely centered to be charged, which takes a bit of effort to get exactly right, and if it’s bumped off center it stops charging. So I built this frame that sits over the top of the charger and holds my tablet exactly centered over the charging coil.

It’s made up of 3 layers of laser cut plywood, one around the charger, and two identical ones to frame the tablet. It even has nice finger slots to make it easy to remove, a feature I identified as necessary in my cardboard prototyping stage….

You can download the files from Thingiverse @


Garage Door Insulation part 3 – Window Openings

I used fiberglass batt and reflectix to insulate the non-window panels of my garage doors, and the process was relatively quick and easy.I decided to use two layers of 3/4″ PolyIso insulation boards with aluminum facing to insulate the window opening panels. The process of cutting out two panels to fit around each window opening was labor intensive.


First, I made cardboard templates sized to fit around the windows and cut out my first layer of insulation. On the first layer, I placed the reflective layer “outwards” facing the door, as there is a small air gap between the panel and most of the steel door material due to a decorative “indent”. This first layer goes around the window frame. I would mark each piece of foam with a template, then use a carpenters square to cut straight (and mostly perpendicular) lines.

In the case of the 2nd layer, I had to freehand trace the curves with my razer knife. To keep the reflective side looking nice on the 2nd layer, I would mark and cut from the back, and then finish off the corners of the cuts from the reflective side.

The second layer fits over the window frame, so the openings are cut smaller, allowing light to enter, but covering up any opaque portions of the window or frame.This comes into play more on the front of my garage, which has decorative coverings over part of the square windows.

I faced the reflective side inward to reduce radiant heat transfer to the interior, and to match the reflectix aesthetically.

Two layers of this PolyIso 3/4″ insulation has an R value of 10, although there are some gaps between the layers, along with large openings cut out for the windows, but I prefer the natural light over thermal benefits of covering the windows entirely.

The take-away message here is if you have the choice, always pay extra to buy the insulated garage doors from the factory, as retro-fitting insulation takes time and money.

Wifi Printing to HP Envy 4500 printer chops off top of page

If you are printing from Ubuntu Linux to an HP Envy 4500 printer and try to print a document with a very small top border, you may find that the printer chops off the very top quarter inch of the page.

The fix I found was to change the paper size from “US Letter (11 x 8.5)” to US Letter Borderless (11.14 x 8.72)” in the print drivers.

I have read several places online where other users with Mac’s and Windows machines have the same issue when printing over wifi, so I feel the issue is with the printer itself (and it’s wifi to printing bridge) as opposed to the Linux drivers.

Easy 4″ exhaust vent outlet

I needed to add an exhaust vent to my workshop that would allow me to quickly attach and detach a 4″ exhaust hose. I decided to use an inexpensive  ($3.18) PVC 4″ snap in drain to go through the board I had in my window for the portable AC unit.  The nice thing about these 4″ snap in drains is that they will tightly fit inside of a 4″ hole, or a 4″ exhaust hose.


Plus, I already had the 4″ hole saw from using the same hardware to vent my truck’s battery chargers.

One hole and a bit of epoxy later, I had a way to vent a 4″ hose out my window.

The drain has a large plastic “grid” to keep out larger creatures, and in this particular application, I have the board mounted inside the normal window screen, so I don’t have to worry too much about bugs.  I also purchased a 90 degree aluminum elbow for $4.28 which makes it very easy for me to plug the flexible dryer hose over the plastic drain piece, and makes the 90 degree turn to go out the window.

It currently sits over the plastic with a friction fit just fine, although I may buy another spring clip to make the connection a bit tighter.  NOTE: This 90 degree elbow is “adjustable” in that you can rotate the different sections around to change the amount of bending. Unfortunately, this let some smoke smell escape into the room from the elbow until I covered all of the seams with aluminum foil duct tape.

Because I only leave the hose attached while venting, I also needed a way to plug the hole when I wasn’t using it. Again, the plumbing section provided the perfect fit with this 4″ PVC DWV to Sewer and Drain Bushing ($2.48), which fits over the outside of the snap in drain very tightly.

I cut a circle of 3/4″ poly iso insulation I had left over from insulating my garage doors to seal the inside of the bushing, and affixed it with hot glue.

Now, whenever I’m not using the Exhaust vent port, I just slip the bushing over the snap in drain and it blocks drafts and provides more insulation value than the plywood board I have mounted in my window for the AC unit in the first place.


My total cost for this solution was under $10 (assuming you have 2 part epoxy and poly-iso insulation just laying around…).


FB1-4001A motor brush photos

Here are some photos of the brushes installed on my DC FB1-4001A series wound motor, rated at 72-144 VDC, (19kW) 25HP continuous ( 100 ft/lb of torque / 48hp @ 500 amps ) which is  9.1″ in diameter.

My motor has a curved protective metal sheet that wraps around the front of the motor (the aluminum with diamond cutouts that has a cutout for the A2 post in this photo). It has a spring catch that releases it (not shown) on the other side of the motor.

I use the metal sheet to hold down fiberglass screen material underneath the diamond cutouts to provide extra protection from road debris. The brushes are accessed after removing the sheet.

The brushes are mounted in pairs, and each brush is held against the commutator by a metal spring and has two copper pigtails to transfer the current.

Here is a closeup of two brushes where you can see the commutator which rotates under them.