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closeup of freshly marinated jerky slices on drying tray

tablespoon-full of smoked paprika being added to coffee jerky dry rub

closeup of coffee jerky dry rub

Nearly a year to the day that I first shared my jerky recipe with the world, I am back again with some new flavors and techniques. This time around I have set out to combine two things that I really love: coffee and jerky. What could possibly go wrong with that combo?

This recipe is intended to be used in place of the marinade section of my original jerky recipe.

Is it Good?

Yes.

Thoughts & Feedback

The dry-rub technique (on jerky) is something new to me, and I hope to experiment with it more. I think that it has some real potential for use in other cooking as well. I have already tried it on steak and I think that maybe some pork chops or a tenderloin are in my near future. It's not really that overpowering, but it just has a different edge, a richness, that is interesting and cool.

While they were are all a bit skeptical at first, so far my friends have really enjoyed this flavor. The community at Instructables seems to like it too, as they have voted it in as a finalist in the 2016 Snack contest!

Links


animated photo of assembled and disassembled flatpack stool
pencil marks on sheet of plywood marking components of flatpack stools
pair of flatpack stools in yard
ConcatLab author crouched behind two flatpack stools and holding a jigsaw and drill

After a brief hiatus, I finally got back to publishing another Instructable. The subject of this installment was a couple of flatpack stools that I cut from a single sheet of plywood. What's cool about them is that the only tools required to build them are a jigsaw and a drill, they only cost around $30, and you can assemble them completely by hand.


Solving a Problem

They say the best products solve a need and these stools definitely filled some of mine. When I found myself playing guitar in an office chair (with armrests), I knew something was not right. These stools were a cheap and easy solution to add some more useful seating, and they can pack down quickly when I need some more space.

So far they have more than lived up to my expectations. They look nice, are reasonably comfortable, and nobody has fallen out of one...yet. My guitar is no longer resting on a padded armrest. All feels right in the world.

Flatpack Design

This was my first attempt at any kind of flatpack design and I had a lot of fun. Devising a means to connect each piece, to keep the seat stable, and to make the most efficient use of my material was a very tough challenge. Since I knew I would be marking and cutting these completely by hand, I tried to keep things as simple as possible. 

I think there are many things to like about flatpack design, namely efficiency, that make it an attractive future prospect for me and my work. Hopefully I can use my experiences here to try out some other, more advanced concepts in the future. Expect to see some more similar projects along the way.

CNC Spite

In many of my recent Instructables I have made it a point to do things sans CNC. I just want to go on the record and say that I love, love, love CNC machines. The main reason I choose to ignore them from time to time is because mine has too small of a work area to handle many of these large furniture projects. Also, while I'm extremely fortunate to have one of my own, many people do not have the same luxury. One of the things I hoped to do in this project was to show that using your head can make up for any tools you lack, especially that CNC machine.

Eventually, I do hope to expand my machine and take on some larger projects. When that happens I will revisit this project and adapt it as needed to work on the CNC machine. Until then this jigsaw will have to suffice.

Links

closeup of custom made dust shoe attached to x-carve CNC router

custom made dust shoe attached to x-carve CNC router

video thumbnail for video of dust show milling process


I hate dust. So do my sinuses. One of the first projects I completed after building my Shapeoko 2 was to design and build a suitable dust shoe to cut down on the mess I made. It is possibly one of the most useful things I have ever built. My recent X-Carve upgrade meant rethinking the entire system to fit a new spindle and slightly modified machine. Below is the story of how it all went down.

Also, it’s only a portion of this project, but I have uploaded a short video of carving the top and bottom plates on the X-Carve. You can find it here. Enjoy the ride on the Y-axis endplate and watch out for Lexan shavings!

General Design

The defining feature of my last shoe was a detachable boot. This was made possible by cutting two plates (one with attachment holes for the vac hose and spindle and one with a foam boot) and attaching them together using countersunk rare earth magnets.

This setup worked well, allowing you to get easy access to the endmills for tool changes, or simply to expose them for better viewing. It also lent itself to the possibility of having multiple length boots to accommodate multiple length endmills, although I never took advantage of this option.
I decided to take a similar approach with version 2.0. The key difference would be affixing the top plate to the new Dewalt spindle.

L For Love

A breakthrough came while rummaging through some old scrap materials. I found an old mounting bracket for a CB radio (Whats your 20, bandit?) that looked like it would be the perfect size to mount to the 3 M4 tapped holes on the side of the Dewalt 611 mounting bracket and extend down to the top plate below.

Another unforeseen, but quickly seized upon opportunity was some slotted holes in the bracket. These made the top plate height adjustable, which I can see coming in handy down the road. I had to add a couple additional holes to allow two points of contact but, other than that, trimming the bracket down to size was the hardest part.

The real icing on the cake was that the bracket was already powdercoated black, making it blend right into the X-Carve carriage. Right away it looked like it belonged.

Shape Shifting

Using the new bracket as a reference point, I set about modifying my old dust show design to better fit the new setup. All this really meant was shifting over the vac hose input hole to tuck neatly against the spindle. I took care to ensure that it did not cause any reductions in travel for either the X and Y axes and would comfortably clear the entire router.

Parts were designed in Inkscape and uploaded to Easel as an SVG. However, for some reason Easel decided to mess up the scaling for all of my parts. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way, by carving some parts that were far too small. I suppose it’s what I get for not double-checking.
Once I fixed the scaling issues, things worked perfectly. It was time for assembly.

A Riveting Experience

The top plate of the shoe was attached to the bottom of the L-bracket using two small pop-rivets. I attached them with the belled end facing up (on the metal side). My reasons for doing this were two-fold.

1) The head of the rivet has a lower clearance so it will be less likely to get caught on the material I am cutting (even though that’s highly unlikely)

2) I was worried that the expansion of the rivet would stress the Lexan top plate. The steel L-bracket should hold up better considering it’s the type of material these rivets are designed to hold.
Making the connection was very easy and it seems nice and sturdy. We’ll see how it hold up.

Hot Glue Everywhere

The final step was to attach the magnets and foam boot. The magnets were very easy as the countersunk holes and their extreme attraction to another pretty well hold them in place without any help. However, I gave them a good seal of hot glue to dissuade them from abandoning their posts.

The foam boot was certainly more challenging, but a liberal amount of glue around its perimeter ensured a firm connection. As basic as this method may seem, it held up extremely well on my first version.

In fact, the dust boot held up so well that I was able to remove it from the old bottom plate and reuse it in version 2.0. Salvage victory #2!

Mounting

An effortless installation on the machine confirmed the time and effort I had put into design. The screws lined up perfectly, the vac hose tightly hugged the spindle, there were no reductions in axis travel, and the system just looked great. A couple of Velcro cable straps locked the hose in place and that was it. It was finished!

Final Thoughts

This was an important first step in setting up my new router, and I am confident it will be a huge benefit to maintaining a clean shop. I think I have made a number of improvements to my original design that will allow for a lot more flexibility moving forward.

The end result matches the rest of my machine very well. Cosmetically, it is very inconspicuous and sleek. I like that!

The proof-of-concept video that I recorded in the process also turned out great! You can go check it out here.

Eventually, I plan to upload the design for the top/bottom plates to Easel for any who may be interested in making their own. However, before I do this I want to be sure that the scaling issues are resolved. I would hate to waste someone else’s Lexan…

Thanks again for reading/watching and beat the hell outta dust!!!

disassembled x-carve compoonents

clearance issue between dewalt router and z-axis motor plate

resolved clearance issue between dewalt router and z-axis motor plate


idler pulley alignment along y-axis makerslide

short bolt connecting v-wheels to spindle carriage

completed x-carve CNC router

It’s been a long time in the works, but I have finally completed upgrading my Shapeoko 2 CNC router to X-Carve. Things went relatively well, and I am very happy with it all, but I have a few general thoughts that I would like to share here.

Having completed the entire Shapeoko 2 build process, I felt that I had a good baseline for how assembly/instructions should go. The X-Carve is the successor to the Shapeoko 2, so I would expect everything to be better, clearer, and simpler, however this was not totally the case.

To keep things organized, I will give my thoughts based on what I liked, and what I didn’t care for as much.

The Bad

On Your Own

Generally speaking, the directions presented on the Inventables website are for building a new X-Carve from scratch, not rebuilding a Shapeoko 2. There were many cases where I had to devise my own solutions for completing an assembly using different parts.

A particular, albeit minor, example is the locknuts provided with the X-Carve. The instructions called for them in most places, and, since I did not have any, I had to interpret that as washer and hex nut.

I learned a lot more in building my Shapeoko 2 than I initially realized, so it was easy enough to overcome these small challenges. However, it would be really cool if there was a manual and video series specifically covering the Shapeoko 2 to X-Carve upgrade process.

Lining It Up

A big disparity that I found during assembly was alignment of the idler pulleys along the Y-axis. The GT2 belts sit roughly in the center of the makerslide rails, so the idlers need to be centered along the same lines. Going off the X-Carve instructions, I felt that the alignment was too far off, so I ended up adjusting with additional washers.

This really wasn’t too difficult of a change, but I did spend some time tweaking to get it right. Even after adjustment, the idler pulleys still aren’t perfectly aligned, but they are good enough to avoid any problems.

Spindle Clearance

I opted to install a Dewalt 611 trim router as part of my upgrade, and got the mounting bracket to go along with it. It seemed like a simple swap for the old spindle and universal mount plate, but I got a good taste of how much bigger the new router actually is when I went to mount it on the Z-carriage.

In the “stock” configuration described in the instructions, the four V-wheels on the back of the spindle mounting bracket were to be offset from the back of the plate using a single washer and spacer. Simple enough. However, when it came time to slide the spindle into place, it would not clear the Z-axis motor mount plate. Bummer!

My solution was to increase the spacing by adding another washer between the wheel and plate. This just barely allowed the router to clear, but created some new problems that I would encounter soon.

Coming Up Short

When I was attaching the spindle mount to the Z-axis, I ran into a major problem; the bolts were too short! To be more specific, the four bolts holding the V-wheels to the Z-axis makerslide. They were making it through the plate, but there was only enough clearance to engage 1-2 threads on the nuts. Unacceptable.

I attribute most of the problem to the thickened backplate on the Dewalt 611 mount. It is easily twice as thick as the old stock plate from my Shapeoko 2, so I can see where Inventables may have not accounted for it. This, compounded with the additional washer I had to add in the previous step had me on the losing end of this deal.

After a brief panic attack and survey of spare parts, my solution was to salvage the four long carriage bolts previously used to mount the stock rotary tool on the Shapeoko 2. These proved adequately long, yet short enough to clear the clamp of the spindle mount on the opposite side. They stick out a little more than is ideal, but more than perform the job required of them.

To be fair, it’s entirely possible that I incorrectly used up the right bolts somewhere else in the process. Either way, no harm, no foul.

Sticky Z – Again…

One of my big problems with the stock Shapeoko 2 was the threaded rod on the Z-axis. It bound up all of the time, was clearly bent, and ultimately required me to sacrifice a lot of feed rate, Z clearance, and Teflon lube.

When I bought the ACME Z rod along with my upgrade I expected this to totally go away. It didn’t.
Assembled as instructed, the Z-axis was definitely not plumb. You could literally see it wiggle and feel it start to bind when you jogged it up and down. It’s purely speculative, but I can see three possible causes for this:

1) The push-in bearing on the motor plate is not level. The makerslide actually overlaps it on one side and I think that it pushes it up ever so slightly. Perhaps some more clearance would ensure that it doesn’t get pinched like this.

2) The Delrin lead nut is improperly spaced from the back of the spindle carriage. As mentioned previously, I had some alignment issues in other places. In its default configuration, mounted directly to the back of the spindle carriage, the lead nut definitely pulls the rod off of plumb. My current fix has been to increase the spacing and this seems to have mostly eliminated the problem.

3) The rod is bent. It could be as simple as this. To be honest, I did not do a thorough check of this prior to assembly. I don't feel motivated to pull it all back apart either.

I am hoping that with the added spacers behind the spindle carriage, a bit of lube, and some time that the issues will go away. So far, so good.

The Good

Inverted Z-Axis

Love, love, love! This was probably the main reason I bought the upgrade, besides the Black Friday discount pricing. First off, it just looks better. Tucking the Z-axis stepper motor away behind the makerslide and getting rid of that towering monstrosity on top was a very nice touch.

With the top of the Z-axis rod exposed, it is now much easier to manually jog it up and down for initial homing and fine-tuning. I know many use a nifty knurled knob, but I have been turning mine using a spare crescent wrench and it works great.

Parts Reduction

Inventables bills a large parts reduction as one of the big improvements over the Shapeoko 2. While I don’t really know that it was that big for me (many parts in the upgrade are one-for-one), it does feel simpler and more compact. The obvious big saver is the X-carriage.

From an engineering perspective, this is the big improvement here. Less parts = less variables = less modes of failure = greater reliability. Can’t argue with that…

Alignment

With absolutely zero adjustments, my new X-Carve is pretty much completely level. I would attribute most of this to the fixed position makerslide mounting holes on the end plates and the one-piece X-carriage. Simplifying the equation by reducing the amount of variance in each of these parts doesn’t make proper alignment a sure thing by any means, but it makes it much easier. I like easy.

Don't believe me? Check out the very first carve and judge for yourself.

Speed Demon

I kind of knocked on the ACME  Z-axis earlier for being problematic, but the truth is it’s still WAY better than the threaded rod. After adjusting the spacing, I have eliminated most of the binding issues and, as a result, have been able to significantly increase the stock feed rates in GRBL.

This presents a nice time savings to complete jobs and lets me push the machine much harder than before. I think this could be improved even more if I make the upgrade from GRBL 0.8 to 0.9 (0.9 allows individual axis adjustments), but we’ll save that for another day.

Spindle Upgrade

While it’s not a part of the upgrade package, per se, the Dewalt 611 is the new “stock spindle” on the X-Carve. I took the opportunity to upgrade this as well and boy was it worth it! This thing absolutely rips through material and that awful whine from the stock rotary tool bogging down in a plunge cut seems to be a thing of the past.

I don’t have any qualifying evidence to back it up, but I feel that the sound profile of the Dewalt router is more bearable than that of the rotary tool. At least it is no worse, which is impressive considering the difference in power.

I’m really happy that Inventables chose to go this route. The additional power makes it a much more capable machine, and a reputable name like DeWalt should garner some additional quality and longevity.

Cosmetics

Function is the quality that most CNC hobbyists are likely most concerned with, but the upgraded machine is more visually appealing. The matte black powder coating on the end plates and carriages looks great, and the fewer parts make it look much more packaged and polished.

I still have the old, silver makerslides, but I kind of like how they contrast with the black parts. Also, seeing that signature Dewalt yellow motor housing up front exudes confidence and power. Such is not the case with a cheap generic Dremel.

Final Take

So was it worth it? Although I initially questioned my sanity for ripping apart a functioning machine, I would say yes. The end result is a sleeker, more professional looking, and better performing tool than I had before.

The X-Carve was released shortly after I built my Shapeoko 2, so it is nice to finally be up to date with Inventables' current product line.

Paramount to all though is the reaffirmation of my abilities to build/service such a machine, and the increased understanding of even the most obscure aspects of its operation. In my mind, this is the real value of a hobby CNC machine. It is also why I am happy to support companies like Inventables who help put these opportunities in the hands of people like myself.

To close, I am glad this project is over. It was enjoyable and I am happy with the end result, but I have lots of stuff to carve! Time to put it to the test! Look out for lots of CNC projects, videos, and upgrades in the future.

And don't forget to check out the video from the first carve! I think it's a nice showcase of how this awesome machine works.

delaunay triangulation pattern with mosaic fill color - shades of blue/green

screenshot of filling Delaunay triangles using the fill tool in Inkscape 0.91

Concat Lab text with Delaunay triangulation fill colors

screenshot of color palettes listed on color-hex.com
I have a real appreciation for math-based artwork, and will take any excuse to try a new technique out. In this Instructable I demonstrate my method for creating mosaic patterns using Delaunay triangulations in Inkscape.

I chose to go down this road mostly out of curiosity, but also to make better use of Delaunay's method, which was only briefly mentioned in the Hand-Drawn Voronoi Diagrams tutorial. Mr. Delaunay gets the full spotlight this time and the results are fantastic!

This Instructable also includes the third video posted to my YouTube channel as well as the third original track I have released.

Links

closeup of drill with sawdust

paintbrush applying dark green paint to the edge of a 2x4

miter saw preparing to cut a 2x4

unpainted 2x4 wave coffee table during test fitting

completed 2x4 wave coffee table in front of a couch

I finally got around to editing all of the footage from the 2x4 Wave Coffee Table project I posted last month. My original intent was to post it in the Instructable I wrote for the project, but that just didn't happen. Weak sauce. Even though it did not make the original cut, I went ahead and added it for posterity.

Behind The Scenes

This is video #2 on my spankin' new YouTube channel, so I'm still figuring out this whole editing gig. For the most part I think it went well. All-in, there was nearly 4 hours of video, so I am pretty impressed that I was able to crunch it down to under 6 minutes. If only the actual project had taken that long...

That droning noise in the background is another one of my sick beats. This is one of my favorites because of all of the sweet filter automation effects I tossed in. Right around 1:58 is where they really get wild.

I won't spend any time discussing the project itself since you can read more than you will ever want to know here. So, get to work solving trig problems and making tables, or go subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don't miss the next video.

Links

close up of hand-drawn Voronoi diagram
Georgy Voronoy wearing sunglasses with Voronoi diagram lenses
A quick look around this site should tell you that I love Voronoi diagrams. Looking for a break from the computer, I recently set out to create some of these awesome patterns by hand. I packaged up all that I learned in another Instructable and in the first video uploaded to my new YouTube channel.

Links

banner saying YouTube channel is live! with more cowbell coasters in background
screen capture of ConcatLab YouTube channel homepage


After months of teasing and speculation, I finally went for it. That's right, the YouTube channel is live. Let's talk about it...

What can I expect to see?

The main subject of my channel (at least initially) will be summary videos, or "build-logs," of each of the projects I complete. Like many of the other summary videos you see throughout the web, these will typically be clipped and sped up to fit the entire project into a shorter timeframe. My intent is that these will help further document my projects, enhance the content of my Instructables, give me an excuse to try video editing, and serve as a sort of time capsule for me to look back on.

Obviously, I have a lot to discover yet in terms of style. I will say that I enjoy odd camera angles, different perspectives, and sweeping timelapses (thanks House of Cards). Whatever that amounts to we will find out soon enough.

Of course, this is ConcatLab, so anything is possible. Don't be surprised if a few other shorts and fun stuff find their way in as well.

What is that awful racket?

Music is a huge part of films and I have an extensive library that I would love to include in my own. However, the twisted world of copyright laws and other legal mumbo-jumbo make that a difficult task. Luckily, I know a guy. Me.

All the videos I release will feature sounds that I have made myself over the past few years. Fair warning, they are probably terrible. But I figured why not? It could be fun. Plus, once I run out of inventory, I will just have to make some more; something I have neglected as of late.

Worst come to worst --- either I run out or everyone hates it --- I suppose I'll just dig into the free, stock YouTube music. Lame. Hopefully not.

Why should I subscribe?

Because you love me, of course. All of the above may sound scatter-brained and random, but I think that is why you should follow my channel. What will he try next week? What ear-splitting noise will be in the next score? Will the project work out? I've given it some thought and video may be the purest format in which to share my experiences. You'll see things come to life, see them fail, see the effort, the struggles, and the victories in ways that I simply cannot put into words here.

So subscribe. Let's do this.

Where can I find it?

Go here or click on the fancy new YouTube button on the main menu of this blog.
closeup view of coffee table using mitered 2x4s to create a wave effect side view of waveform coffee table with annotations of the trigonometric functions that it uses isometric view of coffee table using mitered 2x4s to create a wave effect calculator resting on concept sketch of waveform table top view of coffee table using mitered 2x4s to create a wave effect miter saw cutting 40 degree miters with yardstick to mark next cut 2x4s are some of the most common and useful materials around but, generally speaking, they are pretty uninspiring. In this Instructable I spilled all the details on how to turn a few 2x4s into a flowing, organic waveform that will take your coffee table to the next level. It is chock full of templates, miter angles, paint shades, and math lessons. Yes, math. Trigonometry to be exact. You should have paid more attention in class...

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