Monday, December 13, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More Concert Posters

This is my kitschiest work yet.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

New Website for Mechanical Design

So, I've been under a rock for the last few months. Mostly I've been trying to get my freelance and contract mechanical design enterprise off the ground. Unfortunately this did not involve any cute sewing projects or fun new screen prints, but I've got to at least try to make a living. So, if you're curious as to what I've been doing, or if you need an engineer/designer, check it out:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

New Hard Drive, RAM, and Thermal Paste for a Macbook Pro

(Side note: It's time to let go of my irrational distain for capitalization. From now on I'll actually use the shift key.)

Anyway, my Macbook Pro has been my most prized possession over the last 4 years. As much as I try not to get caught up in the ownership of shiny objects, my MBP is my primary means of communication, entertainment, and productivity. Recently as I've started taking on freelance work, my MBP is my only office. Unfortunately it's aging and with that age has come some problems. The most notable of these is that it overheats, the hard drive is jam packed, and it bogs down sometimes when using SolidWorks (the CAD software I use for work). So, I decided to tackle all three of these with a D.I.Y. blitzkrieg. Here is the rundown on the problems and solutions:

My computer started having overheating issues a couple of years ago. Recently it's been common for my computer to be above 70 deg celsius when virtually nothing is running. There are tons of forums talking about Apple's poor application of thermal paste being the culprit. I've been using smcFanControl to monitor and manually control the fans, but even so my CPU temp has gotten into the 80s and 90s on regular occasions and has crashed the kernal several times. Admittedly I wasn't convinced it was solely a case of poor thermal pasting as I could generally get the temps down by shutting down hung up processes in the Activity Monitor. The most common offenders are Adobe Flash and iAntivirus. Even still, normal operating temps were around 60 or 70 C, which was much higher than when it was fresh out of the box. So, I did a bunch of research and found some tutorials and advice on reapplying the thermal paste and cleaning out fans and ducts. This post isn't meant to be a walkthrough, but has info on my experiences. If you're looking to do this on your MBP, check out:

- Disassembling First Generation MBP
- Reapplying Thermal Paste
- Application Instructions for Arctic Silver 5

Another problem I've been struggling with is hard drive space. My MBP came with a 120 GB drive, which was huge at the time, but I managed to fill it pretty quickly. I like keeping as much as I can on my hard drive since I travel a lot with it (I'm currently writing this in a coffee shop). My music alone takes up more than 60 GB and I find I have to cull through it periodically just to free up a gig or two. Since I'm constantly on the edge I find I am always uninstalling and reinstalling software to make room for other programs or files. I also run SolidWorks off Bootcamp, which means partitioning a cramped drive, which just makes two extra cramped drives. I did switch to Parallels recently, but now I'm having RAM issues (see below). I do have a time capsule, which is great, but it doesn't help me when I'm in the library or in Berlin. So, it's time for an upgrade. I didn't need anything huge, but I figured 500 GB should give me some breathing room. After a bit of research I settled on the Seagate Momentus 500GB 5400RPM drive. I decided to go with the 5400 RPM over the 7200 since they seem to have fewer issues and they create less heat and drain the battery slower for only a marginal decrease in speed.

I was getting tired of having to switch between OS X and Windows XP on bootcamp for work (unfortunately there is no mac version of SolidWorks). So, I decided to give Parallels a try. The advantage of Parallels is that you can run OS X and another operating system simultaneously. The downside is that running two operating systems at the same time is taxing on the processor and memory. Since upgrading the processor means getting a new computer, I opted instead to upgrade the RAM. It turns out my 15" 2.33 GHz MBP can only handle 3 GB (you can check what type of RAM you need and how much you can install here). Since I already had 2 GB, I got a single 2 GB chip to replace one of my 1 GB chips. I figure if the extra gig makes Parallels manageable, then great, otherwise I'll have a huge HD and can partition it with Bootcamp without having to stress over the space.

Ok, so now the exciting (or perhaps not-so-exciting) results. I got everything shipped and it arrived within a day or two of each other. I actually got the RAM a bit early and installed that since it's super simple. The thermal paste and HD replacement would be all one big surgery. After messing up the wifi antenna on my ipod touch I was a little nervous and was determined to go super slow and be super careful with the MPB. I carefully took it apart and wore my anti-static wrist strap once the logic board was exposed. Everything went pretty smoothly, although the screws holding in the optical drive were rather stubborn and it took a lot of patience not to strip them. I took this opportunity to clean out all the dust that's accumulated over the last 4 years. Once I got the fans out I found both the ducts completely packed with dust, which certainly wasn't helping my overheating issue. Here are some pics of thermal paste on the chip side and heat sink side.

It definitely looks like it didn't have great contact between the two. So, I cleaned off the old stuff and prepped it for a new application.

From there I applied the new paste and put the logic board back in. I then installed the new hard drive. I finished up reassembling the entire computer and then came the moment of truth. I plugged it back in and pushed the power button... and nothing. No lights, no noises, nothing on the screen, nothing. As you can imagine that's about where my heart sank. I knew there was a possibility of this sort of thing happening, but I had higher hopes. Anyway, I spent the next few hours trying everything I could to solve the issue. I tore it all apart and put it all back together several times; I tried the original configuration of components; I even tried banging my head against the wall, all to no avail. After trying everything I could think of and reading dozens of forums about people with similar issues, I concluded that it was the logic board that had been fried and it was either gonna cost me $400 to fix that or I was going to have to mortgage my soul for a new computer. So, I slept on it and the next morning I tore it apart and reassembled it again for good measure.... and then.... nothing. There was one thing that was bugging me. When I was originally reassembling the computer I accidentally used a screw that was too long along the back side of the case. There was a little resistance, so I stopped and put in the right one. When I took it back apart I saw that the cable from the screen to the logic board was right behind that screw hole. I checked the cable and it looked fine. Anyway, it was bugging me so I unplugged the screen and tried to turn it on.... success! I mean, as much success as you can have when you have a computer with no screen. It was making all the right sounds. The hard drive and fans were working and it was beeping like it's always beeped. That was sort of good news since I knew exactly what was wrong. Unfortunately a new screen costs more than a new logic board. Bummer, but I had posted about my woes on Facebook and got a message from my friend Tera who had an old busted MBP (coffee spill incident) that she'd let me cannibalize. Turns out it was the exact same model, so I swapped out the screens and total success! I now have a completely functional computer once again, despite almost totally ruining it.

Now with all the new stuff it's definitely a new computer. The RAM helps Parallels run a bit faster, although I might switch back to Bootcamp just to get ever last drop of power out of SolidWorks. The new hard drive means I can reinstall the software I'd previously taken off and keep all my docs/photos/media on the laptop. The computer has also been running a lot cooler. I've actually been in the 40s when running light applications, which I haven't seen for a long time. It still hits 80 when I'm doing photo rendering, but that is to be expected. So, all in all a total success, although I could have done without the stress of almost ruining my computer.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

state of the moped

i figured i should at least show off the latest look of the moped. the only major difference is that i swapped out the stock handlebars for some bmx bars. it's sort of a compromise between the style of dropped bars and the comfort of stock. i'm not sure i like it, but for now it looks better than the stock bars that really belong on something with a banana seat.

i forgot, that i did swap out the front and rear sprockets. the old ratio was 15x45 and now it's 17x40. that gets me up to a respectable 46 mph and i can still get off the line without holding up traffic. i feel like i should be getting a little more than 9,300 rpms out of the engine, but maybe the altitude is robbing more than i figure? i also threw on a voltage regulator and i haven't blown a bulb in 3 or 4 weeks!

laundry list of what needs to be dealt with:
- brakes suck
- running a really big main jet (96) and i'm not sure why. figure i should be in the lower 80s. i can't find any air leaks, which would be the simple solution.
- buzzing sound at higher rpms. may be a cooling fin rattling against the exhaust manifold.
- wrist pin needs a wider needle bearing, since the one that came with the aftermarket crank is too short for the piston.
- needs a better clutch. i'm gonna wreck the stock two-shoe clutch pretty quick with the super stiffy springs i threw in there.

Monday, October 4, 2010

making and gifing

admittedly my adventures in d.i.y. haven't been very adventurous lately. mostly working on the moped and my computer, which was very close to an epic failure. unfortunately i'm missing some of my favorite making tools, like the sewing machine and screen printing stuff, but once i have a little cash i'm going to take a welding class, which i'm excited about. in the meantime i've been working hard to get my website together. i'm really going to try to make a go at this freelance/contract thing. i'm confident with the engineering and design parts, but i'm not looking forward to the networking/marketing/schmoozing part. anyway, i've been teaching myself some photo rendering and photoshop stuff and made my buddy cameron a show poster. above is my first animated gif. shiny.

if you're in vancouver, check out the show!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

case matching my E50 puch engine

i have finally gotten around to case matching my E50 puch engine. for those of you that don't know what case matching is... well, when i upgraded the cylinder on my moped the transfer ports (see diagram) on the new cylinder are much larger than the transfer ports on the crank case. the transfer ports are the path the fuel/air mixture takes from the crank case to the top of the cylinder where it's compressed and then ignited. because the stock ports and the new ports don't line up properly, the flow of air/fuel is restricted and the engine is not running as efficiently as it could. so, that is where "case matching" comes in. case matching is removing material from the transfer ports on the crank case side so that they match the ports on the cylinder side.

here are are transfer ports on the stock crank case:

you can see that the transfer ports are considerably larger on the new kit:

anyway, i used the gasket to mark the area on the crank case that needed to be removed. the area that's coming off is marked with sharpie:

ideally you case match when the the crank isn't in the engine, this makes it easier to keep the crank and the case clean. when case matching there are tiny pieces of aluminum flying around as you are expanding the port. obviously little flecks of metal are not good for the engine. they can easily wreck pistons, cylinders, and bearings. i did not want to take my crank case apart again, so i masked the crank and the bearing on the connecting rod with lots of tape and plastic. a much cleverer solution is to use silly putty. i would recommend that if you're not willing/able to tear the whole engine apart.

i did my milling with a dremel and a 1/4" and a 1/8" carbide burr (which are generally meant for more brittle materials, but didn't seem to get gummed up on the aluminum). while doing the case match, you don't need to cut the port straight down, and you don't need to go super deep. i angled the port in and went down about 0.75"- 1.0". here is what the port looked like after the milling:

then i just hit it with some 200 grit sand paper and cleaned it like crazy. i put the engine back together and i'm probably getting 2 extra miles per hour. now i'm just eagerly awaiting my new sprockets.

also, i found confirmation of how that voltage regulator is wired. i was right, it does act like a shunt:

Monday, August 30, 2010


our friend amanda invited us up into the mountains a few weeks ago and made us sandwiches from homemade seitan and served home brewed mead. both were amazing and so we were inspired to make our own seitan. all you really need is wheat gluten flour and about an hour and a half. it was super easy, although i don't think we kneaded long enough and so the texture wasn't quite right, but now i'm extra motivated to try it again. i also want to give kombucha a try soon.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

failing and fixing

so, as you may have read, i added a kit to my puch magnum. i was pretty proud of myself, although it still needed some adjustment to get it working perfectly. mainly it needed to be properly tuned. this meant determining if the air to fuel ratio was too rich (too much fuel) or too lean (too much air). running too rich isn't efficient as it wastes fuel and can also adversely affect performance (i.e. bogging). running too lean is not good at all. this condition causes the engine to run too hot and can cause serious damage to the engine (i.g. seizing the piston). ideally you want to be right in the middle of those and perhaps erring a bit on the side of rich, just to be safe. there are several factors that affect the air/fuel mixture (main jet, idle jet, throttle needle position, air filter, air leaks, altitude, etc). the most important of these when operating at wide open throttle (wot) is the main jet. the main jet is just a little piece of brass with a hole in it and allows fuel to flow into the carburetor where it mixes with air. there is a number stamped on the jet that indicates how large the hole is (and therefore how much fuel it will let in). to figure out what the fuel mixture is you have to do something called a plug chop. it's basically running the moped at wide open throttle for about a mile with a fresh spark plug and then taking it out and checking the color. if it's black then it's running too rich and if it's white it's too lean. tan to chocolate colored is just about right.

anyway, i did a couple plug chops and found a spot where it was brown, but probably on the lean side. i was running an 86 jet and wanted to try an 88, but didn't have one. i was going to order one, but this was right as i was moving. i figured i was close enough that i wouldn't hurt it. i had to make it 19.2 km (thanks google earth) from my old place to the new house. i made it 16.3 km. i pulled over and sure enough the engine was seized... oops! that's a first. so, i locked it to a pole and walked the remaining 3 kilometers (this is part of the fun of moped ownership). the next day i picked it up with a friend's truck and brought it back to the house. i also managed to blow out all three lights on the bike. that wasn't necessarily a surprise, but it's still a pain. this was caused by the bike going faster than it was originally designed to, which caused a spike in the voltage coming from the magneto, which blew everything up. i'll have to fix that too.

the first step was to take it apart and figure out what happened. i thought the piston had siezed, which is bad, but sometimes you can pound it loose with a hammer and a piece a wood and just keep riding it. it might require a new piston ring, piston, or cylinder if it's really bad. anyway, i took off the head and the cylinder and it turned out the piston was moving freely. that meant whatever went wrong happened in the crank case. i've never taken a crank case apart, so let the adventure begin.

first, it turns out they used flat head screws to hold the two halves of a E50 engine case together. this made disassembly a major hassle as many of the screws did not want to turn. i barely got it apart as i nearly stripped the heads on a couple of them. i made a note to replace them with socket head cap screws. so, i finally got it apart and this is what the crank looked like:

as you can see, the bushing that goes between the connecting rod and the wrist pin was mangled (although a lot of the mangling in the photo is from me trying to rip it out). i also cooked the bushing between the connecting rod and the crank. you can see all the heat marks around the area. this is what seized my engine. i could have tried to replace those bushings, but i decided to take the opportunity to replace the whole assembly with a higher performance crank. i also decided to replace the bearings and seals while the thing was torn apart (they sounded pretty worn out anyway).

by the way, i used this tutorial for rebuilding an E50 engine, which was a huge help.

here is engine pulled apart with the crank missing and just the gear that connects the clutch to the drive sprocket:

here are the two halves of the engine case. i decided to clean everything while it was in pieces:

this is the one of the old bearings coming off. i had to use a gear puller, which isn't shown:

then we skip all the way to the case reassembled, because i did a terrible job of taking photos. essentially is was straight forward. i had to take the old bearings and seals off, put new bearings and seals on the new crank, seal the case with silicon and then bolt it back together (with the new socket head cap screws). i also decided to put new heavier springs in the clutch while i had it apart (which also required buying a clutch puller). this means the engine revs higher before the clutch engages the wheel, which improves acceleration. you can see the new crank has needle bearings instead of brass bushings:

check out those sweet socket head cap screws:

the verdict: total success. it is really gratifying to have the whole engine in a bunch of little pieces laying around the garage, and then a few hours later i'm rocking down the street. i put in the 88 main jet and did another plug chop. it looks better, but i am going to try the 90 and see how that works. i got a voltage regulator which should minimize blowing out lights. although i'm not 100% how it works. i thought it was just supposed to to inline, but one of the leads is grounded, so that means the light doesn't work at all. right now i have it hooked up as a shunt. i am assuming when the voltage goes over a certain point it starts dumping power. i dunno? so far my headlight still works. i still have to revisit the electrical stuff and then comes the cosmetic improvements. first step: new lower handlebars.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

cool baby clothes from recycled fabric

my friend nathalie sent out an email about her cousin in berlin who makes baby's clothes from recycled fabrics. i just had a minute to check the site out and they are amazing. so, if you want your baby to be the coolest kid on the block and promote sustainability at the same time, have a look:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

birthday making

i made this passport cover as a birthday present last week. the cover is 3mm thick designer felt and the cover sleeves are made out of one of my brother's old shirts. thanks matt!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

kitting puch magnum

so, i've always been a purist when it comes to mopeds. i like to keep everything stock, or as close as i can. that changed today, when i did a cylinder/carburetor/exhaust upgrade to my 1978 puch magnum xk. i decided to do this because, while the stock magnum is great for getting around boulder, i can't make it easily to any of the surrounding cities (speed limit is at least 45 mph, even on the back roads). the stock moped tops out at around 33 mph. so, to get some more speed out of it i ordered a bunch of parts from treats and 1977. what i got:

- k-star 70cc cylinder kit w/ high compression head. i got the k-star because it was cheap and i didn't come across many people who have had issues with it. for those of you not familiar with mopeds, they all come stock with ~50 cubic centimetres of displacement (the engine size). this is because larger engines are considered motorcycles and therefore require a special license, higher cost of registration, and higher cost to insure (plus they use more gas). in order to get around this, you can buy a "kit" that replaces the cylinder, head, and piston and increases the displacement.
- 19mm dellorto phbg carburetor. a bigger engine needs more air and fuel, which means it needs a bigger carburetor (the part that mixes the air and fuel before it goes into the engine).
- 19mm intake. a bigger carb requires a bigger intake.
- tecno estoril exhaust. more air/fuel means more exhaust and therefore a larger exhaust pipe. i chose the estoril because it has a large powerband (range of RPMs where the engine is creating good torque) and the powerband is located in the middle of the RPM range. this means that it allows relatively good low end torque, which is important for starting, while still giving a good top speed.
- uni pod air filter. clean air means a cleaner carburetor and a cleaner cylinder, which makes for a happier carb and cylinder.
- ignition micrometer. i was tired of my little stick with lines drawn on it. this makes it easier to accurately set the timing (when the spark plug fires).
- cylinder studs. these hold the cylinder and the head to the crank case. i could have used the stock studs, but the threads on one of them was stripped. pow! new studs.

so, let the fun begin. first step, take the old head, cylinder, and piston off:

here is the k-star kit that i'm going to put on with the hi compression head:

first i have to put the new piston on. here's the new piston on the original connecting rod as well as a photo of the new and old piston showing the difference in size. woo! 20 more cubic centimetres:

now i just slide the cylinder over the piston, which is surprisingly easy since there is only one piston ring:

uh oh! first problem. my cheap-o k-star kit has a poorly tapped spark plug thread. this means the spark plug will not thread onto the head:

solution: buy a $30 tap and chase the threads (or send it back, but i am not patient). the proper tap for this spark plug is a 14mm x 1.25:

it was tricky getting the tap started in the existing threads, but i mustered enough patience and managed not to wreck the head. just be sure if you do this to clean off the head thoroughly. i used some isopropyl and a brush. pistons and cylinders don't take kindly to little metal shavings:

the head now attached with the spark plug in place:

next comes the carburetor and the intake. one of the float bowl vents was interfering with the moped's frame, so i just pulled it off. it still leans a little to one side, but it should be fine for now:

finally comes the exhaust:

i didn't expect the exhaust to mount properly since it was designed for a puch maxi and not a magnum. the mounting points don't line up, so i have to fabricate something. for now i'm just using a $4 exhaust mount that should keep it from breaking in half for the meantime:

the results: to my surprise it started right away. it was loud as hell because they sent me the wrong exhaust gasket, but i'm working on fixing that. so, i took it out on the street and it ran pretty well. it was bogging at wide open throttle, which i thought was because it was running lean, so i raised the throttle needle up a notch. it ran a lot better, so i did a plug chop and found it was still running lean, so i up-jetted to a 92 (from the stock 85). after another plug chop it looked better although i think i'm going to try the 95 i have to see how that runs. i'd rather be running rich, especially while i'm breaking in the new cylinder. so, i haven't had anyone pace me in a car to figure out the top speed (the speedometer only goes to 30 mph), but my best guess is she's topping out at 45 mph right now and i should be able to get a little more once i dial in the tuning. i also need a bit of tubing to attach the air filter to the carb, since there is no room for the larger filter. in conclusion: sweet!

next step:
- fabricate a mount for the exhaust. i really wish i had welding equipment.
- tune to perfection.
- install low rise handlebars
- get a voltage regulator so i stop burning out break and tail lights.
- paint the frame.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

ipod touch screen repair. success!... sort of

as i mentioned in the last post, my ipod touch screen is cracked and i had the intention of fixing it. as i also mentioned/quoted in my last post, it is good to have the courage to screw up. well, i succeeded in both regards. i fixed the screen and i screwed up. i'll walk you through both below:

so, here is the busted screen. everything works just fine, it just looks lame. before i embarked on this repair it did occur to me that i could potentially make things worse. the new screen is on the right. i got it and a couple tools for taking it apart off ebay for $13.

first step: get it apart. not so tough.

the ipod is held together by a bunch of tiny philips head screws and some adhesive. it takes some care and patience to carefully pry the battery off. i used my library card, but anything thin and plastic should do. for a step by step video for how to disassemble a 1st generation ipod check out this youtube video.

here's a better view of the cracked glass once i have all the electronics disconnected.

in order to remove the glass from frame you have to heat up the glue. this makes it easier to pop it out. unfortunately, despite the "pro" moniker, the andis EuroPro 1875 was not the most effective blow dryer. it eventually got the job done, but i recommend i higher quality dryer or perhaps a heat gun.

once i got the old piece of glass out i re-heated the glue with the dryer and stuck in the new piece. i'm not sure how much i trust this method, but it seems to be working for now. the best bet is probably to get some of that 3M double sided adhesive.

and then disaster! i was trying to be careful and slow with everything, but i still managed to break the little ribbon cable that attaches the wifi antenna. i tried to come up with a way to fix it, but it's pretty much a lost cause. the only way (i can see) to fix it is to replace all the electronics. if you happen to have a busted 1st generation ipod taking up space in a drawer i'd happily take it off your hands and try to make a frankenstein ipod. i'd gladly buy you a six pack of beer or root beer if you're underage. anyway, it's actually not too bad. the wifi still works, but i have to be within 10 feet of a router. that is silly and renders the internet nearly useless, but i do have a new shiny screen. and while that may not be a fair trade off, i'm glad i made the effort. i certainly won't be afraid to take apart my ipod again in the future, and next time i'll be more careful with the wifi antenna.

check out that beautiful screen!