A sign for the Farmhouse

Wendy asked me long ago if I could make a sign for her family farmhouse. I bought some plastic sign material almost a year ago from Trotec at engraving-supplies.ca but never got around to making the sign. Well, I corrected that today.

The sign as it came off the CNC machine

I had made a small name sign on a piece of scrap 2-colour plastic I had laying around so I was pretty sure that my feeds and speeds were good. When milling plastic, the thing to avoid is going too slow. If you do, the plastic will melt on the bit.

So I used a 1/8 inch single flute upcut bit with a feed rate of 500 mm/min which is about double my normal feed speed for wood. I also took a deeper per pass than normal because of the softer plastic material. I cut the design to a depth of 0.6 mm in a single pass into the 1/8 inch (3.175 mm) material. These settings seemed to work well as I made lots of plastic chips and no melting.

The sign presented a challenge because at approx. 300 x 300 mm, it was twice as large as the work are on my 3018 PROVer (280 x 165 mm). The design had to be split into two separate carves, each of which being within the limits of my machine. After carving the top half of the sign, I repositioned it on the bed and cut the bottom half. The piece was held down with double-sided tape as it was too big for me to clamp it. Man, that tape really holds! I was worried I might break it prying it off the tape, but I was careful and successful.

The finished sign.

I have a happy customer with this one!

Polar Unite

I bought myself a new fitness smart-watch, the Polar Unite.

Polar Unite

I’ve been wearing a Polar A300 watch for almost 4 years now. Got it when I was in cardiac rehab after my heart surgery. In combination with a Polar H10 chest strap it did a great job of tracking my heart rate during workouts. However, it did require the chest strap to be worn to get the heart rate.

This new watch has built-in heart rate monitoring right on my wrist, so it’s there 24/7. It also has a touch screen with a vivid colour display. It connects to the Polar Flow app which I’ve been using to track my training sessions. I get a lot more information on this new watch including my training history in charts and graphs. I think I’m going to like it.

I’m a big fan of the Polar line of fitness products and I didn’t want to see the old one go to waste. So my old A300 smart watch found it’s way onto Wendy’s wrist. Got it all set up for her, the change-over was pretty straight forward, and she’s looking forward to tracking her own daily activity tracking.

TV Stand Project

This is another “retro-post” of a previous project. Last year Wendy wanted a new TV stand for Hanna’s Irish Vacation Farmhouse. We decided to make it from some nice wormy maple that I was able to source locally.

Finished TV Stand in place at the farmhouse

After careful measuring to fit both the available space and the farmhouse’s TV, I came up with a design and started cutting the pieces and began the assembly.

Table during assembly

All the joinery was done with pocket joints. It’s a good effective way and provides a strong joint.

Assembly

I decided to personalize this table by carving “Hanna Farm” into one of the front rails. Before assembly, I put the piece into my Genmitsu 3018 PROVer CNC machine and made the carving with a 90 Degree V-bit.

The top

The top was a beautiful piece of laminated wormy maple and was the single most costly item in the whole table. I mixed up some clear epoxy and filled in the knot holes on the top. It was then given a number of coats of polyurethane. The rest of the pieces got the same polyurethane finish before final assembly.

All in all, this was a very worthwhile project. The wife was happy and that’s the most important thing.

Homemade ADS-B antenna

I wasn’t really satisfied with the range of reception my ADS-B receiver was getting. With the kit antenna, I was receiving signals from aircraft up to about 50 nautical miles, but more reliably only really 30 miles. That was with the antenna situated inside my patio door. I found that moving it outside increased the range but it wasn’t a practical idea to have the patio door cracked open in March. I wanted a more permanent setup with even better reception.

After a bit of research on the interwebs, I decided to build myself a homemade “co-co” – coaxial collinear – antenna. I made my antenna based on a couple of YouTube videos and this excellent description at www.balarad.net

A collinear antenna consists of a number of equal length segments of coax cable joined by alternating the center conductor of one to outer sheath of the next. The ideal length of each conductor is calculated based on the frequency to be recieved (1090 MHz) and something called the coax velocity factor. Luckily there are calculators on-line like this one at jeroen.steeman.org

The videos and other resources I found had calculated the length for each antenna segment at either 116mm or 118 mm. So after careful consideration, I decided to split the different and go with 117mm. Fortunately, I had some unused RG6 coax cable which I was able cut into the required segments.

Assembling the collinear coax antenna

The antenna can have as many segments as you wish, but it seems that any more than 8 doesn’t offer a great deal of improvement. So I went with 8 segments. The photo above shows how the segments are joined with the center conductor of each inserted into the sheath of the next. A piece of electrical tape not shown here is placed between the conductors. Then each connection is wrapped with more electrical tape.

After assembling all 8 segments (the last one has an F-type fitting) the whole thing is inserted into a piece of 1/2″ ABS pipe about a meter in length. The top is capped and the fitting at the bottom is wrapped with electrical tape until it fits snug.

antenna mounted to deck

I mounted my new antenna outside on the corner of the wall of my deck and ran a 25 foot piece of RG6 coax cable into the house to the NooElec SMArtee SDR reciever on my Raspberry Pi 4B computer.

So was it worth it? Absolutely, my reception has gone from 30-50 nautical miles to 150-200 nautical miles. At times I have been receiving signals from over 100 aircraft. That’s a big jump form the 10-15 I was getting before.

My ADSB data is being fed to the flight tracking services of ADSB Exchange. If you check their website, you will see aircraft tracked by my ground station (and many others all over the world).

ADS-B antenna

Here’s a couple of screen captures that show the reception I had with the kit antenna (top) and with the new “co-co” antenna (bottom).

Reception with kit antenna
Reception with outdoor “co-co” antenna

Cairnwood Cutting Board

My daughter commissioned another cutting board for one of her real estate clients. This one was made on a different style of maple board.

Cairnwood

I grabbed the logo from the client’s website and imported the SVG file into Carbide Create where I sized it to fit the available space and generated some toolpaths.

The board was carved on my Genmitsu 3018 PROVer CNC machine. I mixed up some clear foodsafe epoxy and filled the cut out areas. After the epoxy cured for 72 hours I gave it a sanding, and followed up with a coat of beeswax & mineral oil for a nice finish coat.

Reverse

On the reverse I carved my daughter’s information. No epoxy on this side, just the beeswax and mineral oil finish.

Sherry says her client was really pleased with the cutting board.

ADSB Exchange

My ADS-B receiver has been working fine on my Raspbery Pi 4B. Using the cheap kit antenna I’m receiving signals from aircraft up to approximately 50 miles, depending on their elevation.

I found a site called ADSB Exchange that collects data from volunteer feeders and aggregates it onto a publicly available map. I was able to establish a connection with their network and I am now feeding ADS-B data to them. So if you view their map, some of the data you see is coming from my ground station.

ADSB Exchange

The above image shows an aircraft I was tracking. It was a Boeing 737-800 out of Toronto YYZ, Flair flight FLE111 as shown on the sidebar.

The jagged lines on the map indicate the range of my reciever. The map expands as planes fly through it and are detected, so it is constantly changing. It’s a nice feature and it tells me I need to relocate my antenna to a better spot. It is presently sitting on the floor just inside the patio door.

When the weather gets a little nicer, I will try to locate my antenna outdoors. I may also try to build a home-made antenna for better reception. There’s lots of instructional videos on line.

After my initial setup, I was unable to establish a feeder connection with FlightAware, so I’m not contributing data to their network.

I have been snapping photos of aircraft that fly close by. This morning I saw a helicopter heading our way and got this pic just as it flew over the house.

Aerospatiale AS-350
From the ADSB Exchange website