Small stuff

Quick update since I’ve not been super productive with exams all this week:

I shaped the boom for the sail last night, still needs to be sanded and finished. Still unsure if I want to get some epoxy to reinforce the ends.

Also, after much deliberation, I ended up ditching the makeshift pintels and gudgeons in exchange for a set of real ones from Duckworks.

Money well spent, says I… The ones I had cooked up were pretty janky. I’ll keep them around as spares if anything should cause these to fail.

The last of my running rigging hardware is on the way. It’s nice to finally have that sorted out. Additionally, I’d found an old block in my garage that the previous owner left here. It needed some attention with a file, and then sandpaper to get it free from burrs. It’s now considerably more rope-friendly. That was taken care of tonight as well.

Testing yourself… Part Deux

The tournament came and went. Managed to score a second place medal out of it, too.

I learned a couple things, and am hoping my coach saw even more that I can improve upon. Next tournament, I plan to do both my weight, and also the absolute division. My nerves were so up after my matches, that I didn’t want to compete in the absolute for this tourney. I ended up regretting it about 20 minutes after they started. Lesson learned.

Next tourney is the Grappling Games in Hudson, WI. I come to squeeze necks and chew bubble gum… and I’m all outa bubble gum…

Representing 10th Planet Photo credit: Fabio Morescalchi

Representing 10th Planet
Photo credit: Fabio Morescalchi

My training partner Jake and I showing off the medals. Two best looking guys in the whole gym…

Jake is being modest. He actually has a 1st Place medal he won in his Gi division. (Against a guy who outweighed him by like 30 lbs!)

Jake is being modest. He actually has a 1st Place medal he won in his Gi division. (Against a guy who outweighed him by like 30 lbs!)

It’s funny. I’ve only rolled once since the tournament, due to being sick all last week. Strangely enough, I’ve put on my best showing against Roger at Open Mats in my life. Not only am I fighting harder for my scrambles, I’m managing to utilize my half guard game in a far more aggressive fashion.

Rolling with Roger is like rolling with a bear. Or a silverback. Or a yeti. The point is: Do not let Roger grab onto you...

Rolling with Roger is like rolling with a bear. Or a silverback. Or a yeti.
The point is: Do not let Roger grab onto you…

Testing oneself

Specifically, myself

I’m entering a submission grappling tournament on Sunday. It’s the first time I’ve competed since 2010, and I’m a bit nervous about the whole thing. Sometimes, it works out okay:

First tourney, first match.

First tourney, first match.

Other times, not so much:

Being helped up after my second match. This guy used my nose as a fulcrum for an Americana Arm-lock. The sound it made was so horrible, the guy and the ref thought her tore all the ligaments in my left arm...

Being helped up after my second match. This guy used my nose as a fulcrum for an Americana Arm-lock. The sound it made was so horrible, the guy and the ref thought he tore all the ligaments in my left arm…

Anyhow, I know going into this that I don’t train more than a couple times a week at the most. And that’s probably not optimal for competition. I watched this video the other day, and realized I’m more of an “progress oriented” person rather than a “tap oriented” person.

Part of the reason I could never be a fighter, despite my love of jujitsu, is that I lack that fire. That hyper competitiveness. Every now and then I get that motivation in class, and become a nightmare for whomever happens to be working with me at the time. 98% of the time, I’m okay getting tapped. I frequently put myself in terrible positions if only to work my way out of them.

So in three days, I need to change my whole perspective on rolling, if only for a few hours. I am not getting on those mats to get better. I am as good as I’m going to be on that day, at that time… On those mats, I am going to roll my heart out, test my skills, and see what exactly I’m made of…

Wish me luck.

No Wallace, lots of Grommets…


As of this evening, the sail for S/V Serenity is now complete. The grommets have been added, and they feel quite sturdy. I’m fairly confident it’ll hold, even without being sewn. I had nothing but trouble trying to sew through the double stick carpet tape. It was binding every 1/4″, and I quickly gave up on that.

Perhaps before making the next sail, I can do some test sewing, sans tape.

Anyway, here’s a couple shots of the head and tack with the 7/16″ grommets:


After finishing the head and tack ones, I measured the distance between them, which came out to 160″. With a number that divided so nicely, I placed a grommet every 16″. Turned out looking nice, and feeling durable. Of course, this is without stress testing it, so the jury is really out until the ice comes off the lakes…

Up next:

  • Finish the rudder assembly.
  • Get rigging pieces together.
  • Make sure boom is correct length.

Why am I dripping with goo?

The temperatures today made it into the 40′s. A very welcome change, indeed.

I was meeting my friend Mindy for lunch a few miles from home, and thought “With temps this warm, I should take the bicycle out of storage and ride there.” So I did exactly that. When I returned home, I noticed my posterior had been getting splashed pretty heavily from riding through all the puddles. (Can’t really avoid them this time of year, lots of snow melting.)

Behold; A great Blue Dragon!

Behold; A great Blue Dragon!

What was required here, are fenders… Or at least fender. Looks like you can purchase these for $20 at the bike shop, but I’m longer on time and spare parts today than I am on cash. (Besides, I need that $20 for Chinese food later.) It should be easy enough to make something to fit under the rack here that would keep the rain off my hindquarters.


Here’s the harebrained plan as it unfolded:

Materials. What to use? Something lightweight, easy to work with, and that I have laying about the house. Plastic seemed the obvious choice. I scoured the storage area for an old gallon ice cream bucket, thinking that would work nicely. No luck. I eventually noticed that I had an abundance of garbage cans. I think I counted eight of them not in use. I picked the one that seemed least likely to be used again, and headed to the garage with it.

A failed attempt of clamping it to my work bench and using a hand saw to cut it up convinced me to use more powerful options. Enter the DeWalt recipro saw.

Yes, I pieced everything back together for this shot.

Yes, I pieced everything back together for this shot.

As it turned out, the sides were nearly perfect to fit the rack.

As it turned out, the sides were nearly perfect to fit the rack.

Wow. First try, and I didn't even measure!

Wow. First try, and I didn’t even measure!

Now to adhere it to the rack. Bolts could have worked, but that would have required digging through bins… The perfect solution: ZIP TIES!

Marking the holes the need to be drilled.

Marking the holes the need to be drilled.

Ready for installation.

Ready for installation.

Beauty. Didn't even need the middle ones.

Beauty. Didn’t even need the middle ones.


So, it looks pretty good, solid and all that. Time for a test! I grabbed a white t-shirt and put it on over my hoodie, donned some gloves, and went for a quick ride. I hit every puddle on my street at a speed of about 15 mph. (6.7 meters per second, for my physics friends.) And here’s the result of that test:

Huh... Wonder what it would have looked like without the fender?!

Huh… Wonder what it would have looked like without the fender?!

It appears I need to extend the fender further back. I had suspected that might be the case, since store bought ones cover 1/3 of the wheel. Back to the drawing board on this one.

Surviving doldrums

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines Doldrums as such:

  1. a spell of listlessness or despondency
  2. a part of the ocean near the equator abounding in calms, squalls, and light shifting winds
  3. a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or slump

This winter has certain been the first and third. With warmer weather on the horizon, I decided to stop dragging my feet on the sails for the Puddle Duck. As with everything else in life, this first run is a learning experience.

Before I start getting into the build, I want to acknowledge David ‘Shorty’ Routh and David Gray of and PolySail International respectively. Both have great resources online, and they also were forthcoming with advice over email. So, Daves, if you read this: Thank you, sirs.

Being a poor college kid, a PolySail kit was outside of my budget. So I opted to make this first sail myself. (For the next PD, I might splurge. We’ll see.)


Here’s how it went down:

I cleared as much space as I could in the basement, since my garage is a sloppy, icy, salty mess. Then I started unfolding the tarp, and getting it stretched out as much as I needed for the sail.

Not the ideal work space. Make do with what you got, right?

Not the ideal work space. Make do with what you got, right?

Then attempt to use a far-too-short 1×1″ to make the luff curve.


Then draw out the leech and foot using the tape measure and 1×1.

Trigonometry, I hate you.

Trigonometry, I hate you.

Second guessing myself, I decided to move the luff line back 2 inches. You can see the original lines nearest the wall. This shot has the tape along the curves of the luff and foot.

Double stick tape in place, ready for cuttin'!

Double stick tape in place, ready for cuttin’!

All cut out along the outside of the tape edges.

Starting to look sail-ish...

Starting to look sail-ish…

I put a v-dart at the tack to give the sail some belly. On my next one, i think I’ll be adding a much deeper dart. Here’s the double stick tape adhered to me with the pattern for the darts: It’s a 12″ piece that will be cut on the diagonal, so when the tape is laid next to the dart, it gets folded in. Nice and neat.

Removing my hand from this was harder than I want to admit.

Removing my hand from this was harder than I want to admit.

Up next, the reinforcing rope. This runs the length of the sail to give it strength, and also works as a means to control the shape. I picked this up on the cheap at the local hardware store this morning. Also, 100′ means I’ll have plenty to make additional sails.

Twisted. Just like my back after sitting on the basement floor for hours... :(

Twisted. Just like my back after sitting on the basement floor for hours… :(

I anchored the rope about 8″ past the bottom of the tack, and started sealing the double stick tape over it. In hindsight, I could have likely gone halfway into the tape with no issues. Perhaps the next sail will have a different style. Once I got a rhythm down, I was able to seal up the rope fairly quickly.

Super sweet action shots!

Tucking the rope deep into the fold.

Tucking the rope deep into the fold.

Pulling the backing off the tape and smoothing as I go.

Pulling the backing off the tape and smoothing as I go.

Aww yeah... Smooth.

Aww yeah… Smooth.

Once I made it all the way around the sail, I realized I would need to connect the ends together somehow. But what way? Knot? Lash? How about a splice? It’s been years since I’ve done a splice, but with the help of the internet I managed to get it done. I started with the left side, which looks janky, the right is a bit better. Either way, I pulled as hard on it as I could and it held fast. That’s all I was after.

If anyone wants to donate an Ashley Book of Knots, I'm totally willing to receive one!

If anyone wants to donate an Ashley Book of Knots, I’m totally willing to receive one!

I added a bit of extra vinyl tape for support at the head. Molly picked brown as the color of choice, in reference to the Browncoats, in keeping with the boat’s Firefly theme. The tack and clew still need to be finished off with more tape.

Stripey, how stylish!

Stripey, how stylish!

So what’s left for the sail? Not much, tape and grommets. Sadly, the grommets that Molly was nice enough to purchase have gone missing. Those need to be found, or new ones will need to be purchased. Aside from those two relatively minor delays, it’s looking pretty much like a finished sail!


    Puddle Duck To-Do List:

  • Finish sail.
  • Assemble rudder, make sure it’s heavy enough to sink with the current weight.
  • Add blocks and cleats to the tiller.
  • Mast step and deck
  • Go sailing!

Sewing Projects on Study Breaks

All the sail making supplies have arrived from Amazon, and I’ve been completely swamped in homework for the last two weeks. Not that I mind so much, really. Physics this semester is WAY better than last, I even got a high B on my first exam. (As opposed to last semester, 30% was my average on the first two exams. Yuck.)

I’m still plugging away at schooling, as it comes first, so when there’s time for breaks, I try to sneak something productive in there. Tonight’s task: Figure out what to do with this HUGE spool of poly thread. After much research online, I had picked up some V69 Poly Thread for my sails. It’s high tensile strength, UV resistant, and I fully expect it will outlive the sail itself.

Also, the spool it came on is made for a much more robust machine than mine. As you can see here, there is NO was that was gonna work on my trusty Kenmore…

Large spool is large.

Large spool is large.

I had to Google “How do I use an ENORMOUS spool of thread with my sewing machine?”. As it turns out, there’s a device that is made to solve this problem. You can buy a “Cone Thread Holder” for less than $10.

That simply would not do. Since I needed a study break, I decided to scavenge my office for parts to make one of my own.

  1. Old CD Spindle
  2. Zip ties
  3. Steel wire (~12 gauge)
  4. Rubber feet

Construction was pretty simple. After bending the wire to fit around the inside of the base, I fed about 16″ through one of the holes in the spindle and twisted a loop into the top. Then, zip-tied the wire to the base, and added the feet to help keep it in place.

Mmm. Rubber feet.

Mmm. Rubber feet.

And the finished product sitting in my Buffalo Bill-esque sewing room:

The smaller loop in the wire was intended to cut down on the thread swinging all over the place when running at higher speeds. Unfortunately, it was eyeballed, and thus about 2 inches too low, and the thread binds on it.

First tests runs winding bobbins went very well. I managed to get 4 of them threaded without a single snag. I’m still troubled by how much the thread “dances” on the wire. It seems to have a tendency to wind itself backwards over the loop in the wire. If there’s one major annoyance when running a sewing machine, it’s having the thread bind or break mid-stitch. Eventually, I’ll want to work out a solution there.

Here is winding the last bobbin, and the basic setup:

Back to physics homework!

Sewing Machines and Sails

The last couple of weeks have found me obsessed with sailing again. Perhaps it’s the insanely cold weather we’ve been having. Cabin fever mixed with a healthy lust for summer days and daydreams of warm breezes on my skin… Yes, that would explain it nicely.

At any rate, I’ve been trying to find things to work on until the snow melts. The sail was the first thing that came to mind. It is also one part of the project I’ve been least looking forward to. Maybe it’s the fear of screwing it up, or over-complicating it in my mind. To alleviate those concerns, I’ve spent a LOT of time milling over articles about sail design at the Puddle Duck Racer website, as well as the nice instructions over at PolySail International

I’d decided on a Bolger 59 (aka: Leg o’ Mutton) a long time ago. It’s an extremely popular sail for Puddle Ducks for a number of reasons; a nice high spirit boom and ease of construction being towards the top of that list. Getting down to design, I started by plotting out the rough shape on some graph paper.


What I ended up finding out, was that I should have enough poly tarp to make TWO sails from that one sheet. Not a bad thing to discover if one is as cost conscious as I am! Something I need to keep in mind before cutting, is that the sail only has ONE straight edge: the leech. Both the luff and the foot have a slight curve to them to shape the sail. Meaning the layout on the bottom will need to be shuffled around with the leech edges along the length of the tarp.


Most of the supplies I need to make the sails are here now, after a hefty order to Amazon. I might get a sail kit for PolySail next time around. We’ll see how these sails turn out first. (Why yes, I am planning to build a second PDR!)

After a couple email exchanges with Shorty (from the PDR site) and Dave at PolySail about the sewing the sails vs only taping them, I settled on sewing. That meant making sure the sewing machine was ready for the task. I quickly discovered that my machine, while capable of zig zag stitching, simply was not. Adjusting the stitch width would move the needle laterally, but it would still only make straight stitches.

Frustrating… I popped the cover and then spent about 20 minutes with the manual going over every oil point in the machine from top to bottom. There was a considerable improvement in the smoothness in the machine’s operation, but still no zig zag stitch. I’d resigned myself to taking it to a shop but continued doing some research online. Most people with similar problems seemed to fix it by going over every linkage and making sure nothing was binding. No point in taking it to a shop to do that, so joint by joint I traced all the movement to an actuator that was gummed up with lint and oil. A bit of oil and wiggling and voila, the needle is now dancing side to side. Time for a test!

I've seen worse, I think...

I’ve seen worse, I think…

Wonder how the back looks?

OH, NO...


At this point it was getting late, and far more progress had been made than expected, so I left the nasty stitches for tomorrow. A new day and some further research into thread tension settings and I came up with this beauty:

Hey! That's looking better!

Hey! That’s looking better!

I set the tension to 3, and toyed a bit with the stitch length control and came up with that. Here’s the back:


YES! No birds nests, all the stitches look clean and even… I think we’re ready for the real thing. Just waiting for my V-69 thread, and I’ll get to cutting the sails. More updates to follow!

“Later Shelves”

After I made my last post I realized “Later Shelves” isn’t part of the vernacular. The idea is pretty straight forward: It’s the place I keep projects that are in progress that I want to finish, but can’t be due to either lack of gumption or resources. I kept having my work space overrun by these halfway built whatsits. I tried a few different organization methods, but could never find a suitable fix for this specific problem. I wanted something anti-static, compact, inexpensive, with easy access to get projects in and out of it.

I don’t recall where I saw it, (I think it may have been an URBEX photo page) but I saw something that really struck my eye. It was some form of map/blueprint/large document holder. Large flat shelves that rolled out of an open faced cabinet. I liked that. Easy to slide the projects in and out, and easy to see what was in each bin, but it was a huge and unwieldy solution. So that is out.

I then happened on the the “In/Out” boxes at my former workplace. Much better as far as size was concerned, and they were wooden, meaning no static issues, but kind of cumbersome to get things in an out of. I knew that I was much closer to what I wanted, and one day strolling through IKEA, it showed itself. The KVISSLE Letter Tray. Easy to see into, sliding trays that were lined with cork, and it’s got about a square foot footprint.

These are my "Later Shelves". Top shelf used to hold the trinket clock. Looks like I need a new project. Nature abhors a vacuum.

These are my “Later Shelves”. Top shelf used to hold the trinket clock. Looks like I need a new project. Nature abhors a vacuum.

Of course, sometimes later becomes a LONG time later, like the case of the SparkFun Metro-Gnome that I gave Molly as a gift. It wasn’t loud enough for her, so I planned to amp it. Still haven’t figured that one out… Sorry, love. Um. I’m working on it?


Trinket Clock – Completed!

After being designated to the “Later Shelves” for months, I finally worked up some gumption this afternoon and finished the trinket clock. I’d originally posted about this build in the “Asking for Help” post in November. Now I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my entire winter break with family and playing GTA V.

My batteries on my camera were totally dead, so I didn’t document the build process. To be honest though, there wasn’t much to document: I made some measurements from the backs of the meters for the mounting holes, printed up the HOURS/MINUTES faceplates, and cut a big hole in an old lunchbox. Not much to write home about.

I did amaze my roommate with my spectacularly jerry-built internals:

Why yes, that is Scotch Tape holding that metal tab in place.

Why yes, that is Scotch Tape holding that metal tab in place.

Q: What is the best way to mount a PCB?  A: On some cardboard, son!

Q: What is the best way to mount a PCB?
A: Cardboard and zip-ties, son!

I think it turned out looking mighty sharp. The plain aluminum lunchbox with the simple meter faces came out very clean. It may even be my favorite new clock.

Lunchbox clock: Completed

Lunchbox clock: Completed