DIY Scavenged Butcher Block Tabletop on Cast Iron Pipe Base

We found a used 70″ x 30″ butcher block tabletop for free on Craigslist and figured that the industrial black cast iron pipe aesthetic might just work for a table base.

We traveled to our local (giant) hardware store and bought:

1 x 48″ long 3/4″ black pipe
4 x 18″ long 3/4″ black pipe
8 x 8″ long 3/4″ black pipe
6 x 3/4″ black tees
8 x 3/4″ black flanges (feet)

We found it’s easiest to assemble the lower half of the “H” sections, screw in the 48″ long cross piece, and then finish of the top part of the “H” supports. You don’t have to use flanges if you don’t like the aesthetic, though as far as anchoring into wood is concerned the flanges underneath the tabletop do offer convenient support and holes for drilling. With this sort of pipe (black drain, 3/4″ cast iron) there are many other fittings (and shapes) that could be created out of 90 degree angle bends, not to mention the variability in pipe width.

As far as refinishing the butcher block goes, it needs to be sanded down (starting with a coarse 50 grit then going finer upward of 200 grit) and then coated with food grade (USP) mineral oil and then sealed with beeswax. Pure Tung oil is another option though it tends to be more expensive. Danny Lipford has a page that gives some great tips on butcher block maintenance.

All told this project should be less than $100 (presuming you salvage the wood) which is significantly less than a store bought version and then there’s the satisfaction of actually building something.

More photos available on Flickr: “Butcher Block Table and Cast Iron Base” photo set.

Pipe and flanges

Flange, 8″, Tee, etc…

Left Side Legs, Butcher Block Table

Right legs

3/4 View Color, Salvaged Butcher Block Table

Unboxing & mini review of the Hario Ceramic Slim Coffee Mill

Unboxing the Hario Ceramic Slim Mill I received from Seattle Coffee Gear, more photos of the unboxing are here on my Flickr.

Back (English)


Open Box


And as it turns out it works pretty darn well. It’s mostly plastic with a stainless steel shaft and a small ceramic burr set. My only gripe would be that with the plastic lid/cover off the handle seems to fit a little better on the grinding shaft. I started with a pretty coarse setting and the burrs are significantly sharper than my old PeDe (from the 1940s, I believe).  I should have no problem dialing in various espresso grinds for use with my temperamental Gaggia Classic.  And of course for brewing pour-overs, French presses (w/ a slighter finer grind) and  my macchinetta, it will be swell.

Blow Up

2 scoops ~20g or so

Grindin '

Melita #102 Ceramic

Pre-infusion Pouring

About 2 minutes or so total pour time

A cuppa joe

Ahh, a cup’pa joe. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Automated Ripping Potential & that Vintage USB Typewriter

Went to Hive 76 for their open house night on Wednesday to check out the space.  While I was there Jack Zylkin demoed his very cool Arduino based vintage typewriter > USB Keyboard hack, and it’s actually quite ingenious and cool.  There are contact relays underneath the main typewriter carriage and he uses magnets for other registers and the Arduino chip figures out the characters pressed based on time delay.  And he’s made the plans available for ‘from scratch’ DIY types under a Creative Commons license.  & who doesn’t want to carry around a 50 pound vintage type writer with their iPad?  Jack’s website is and his Etsy page [here].

Another sweet item I saw at Hive 76 was an older Sony Vaio automated DVD changer that connects via 1394 (FireWire 400).  Supposedly, using DBPowerAmp and some basic scripts it is possible to batch rip up to 200 CD’s at a time into .flac image files with good metadata and .cue sheets.  Alex Wetmore wrote several years ago, and I’m paraphrasing his sentiment here, that he had better things he’d like to do with his day, like go on bicycle rides, because the fact is that he is not a CD changer.

So the general idea is you use one of these big Sony Vaio XL1B* changers, load it up with your music, walk away from it for about 24 hours and when you come back hopefully you’ve got a hard drive full of music in a format that is future proof.  If I can actually get this to work it would be a beautiful thing, and Brendan said it was good go.

Sony VAIO XL1B* Series 200 Disc Changer

Sony VAIO XL1B* Series 200 Disc Changer

Temperature surfing the Gaggia Classic & the Hario Mini Mill Slim

Bought some Gimme! Leftist Espresso blend recently when we were visiting friends in NYC dropping off a nuptial related coffee making apparatus type gift. & Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been enjoying the Chestnut Hill Coffee Company’s espresso offerings of late & we actually rode bicyclettes all the way up that gosh darn Chestnut Hill to Germantown Ave.  It’s actually quite steep coming up from Forbidden Drive (i.e. sea level) in the Wissahickon Valley to 500 feet, averages about 10% grade or more in the beginning.

At any rate, some coffee related stuff:

1) The nuptial gift was a Capresso MT500 with reusable gold cone filter.  This is a pretty nice coffee making machine.  The advantages over the MT600 glass model, from my research include: 1) a stainless thermal carafe, 2) fully stainless heating element system, & 3) a Portuguese temperament

I’m not actually sure if the  MT500 model vs the Chinese constructed MG600 makes much of a difference, but according to Amazon reviews it does, and there’s over 300 reviews between them so I figure better to go with the older Portuguese made model.

Capresso MT500 Coffee Maker

Capresso MT500 Coffee Maker

I finally ordered my Hario Mini Mill Slim hand grinder.  The nice old Pe De C’ bought me for nuptials has worked well but basically the burrs are not tight enough except for certain blends of espresso, I needed more leeway and precision on the finer burr settings.  I usually don’t make more than a couple of double shots a day so I figure the Mini Mill and its ceramic burr set should be perfect and as a bonus I can travel with it.

Hario Mini Mill Slim Hand Grinder

Hario Mini Mill Slim Hand Grinder

I’ve been measuring the shots on the Gaggia Classic with an instant read thermometer.  About 30 seconds after the right hand brew temp light comes back on gives the highest brew temperatures, usually in the 180’s °F.  I need to either PID the machine or buy a new higher temp thermostat if I want 192 °F in my demitasse. Though the PID may get my starting brew temperature more consistent, supposedly the problem with these small single boiler machines is that they don’t have enough volume @n temperature to maintain a full 30″ shot at 201 °F (or @whatever you’re dialing in your espresso). A Swedish fellow from Stockholm managed to build his own heat exchanger / pre-heating coil using aluminum billet, to help the Gaggia maintain the temperature throughout the shot, you can read about it on  I am not sure to what lengths I’ll go for that perfect shot.

DIY Gaggia Classic Heat Exchanger

DIY Gaggia Classic Heat Exchanger

Gaggia Classic PID @ Auberins

Gaggia Classic PID @ Auberins

Quick Thoughts

  • Fully guy wired post and tension cabled rack for the Mac Mini and the Time Capsule.  Anything with a spinning disc drive should be hung in the open air to stay cool and quiet.
  • Hidden behind the speakers, active digital cross-overs with AES/EBU built into the active amp plugged into the speaker drivers.  Check out the Danish company “Ground Sound” looks good.
  • Control all this wirelessly using an iOS application.
  • Some sort of redundant NAS RAID product like the Drobo FS, DLNA NAS, etc. In a perfect world the Drobo FS only needs one other device on the network to translate DAAP between the music on the server and AES/EBU of the DAC/speaker inputs & that device would communicate with the wifi remote.
  • Sonos makes something sort of like this.  Logitech’s Squeezebox too.  But the PS Audio PerfectWave DAC is essentially what I’m talking here, I think with the network bridge “lens” option it’s over $3k.
PS Audio PerfectWave DAC
PS Audio PerfectWave DAC

Mass .flac to Apple Lossless (ALAC .m4a) conversion

I have a couple posts going on the back burner, namely the re-foaming process on the 8″ woofer drivers from the Advent Heritage speakers I found in Greenpoint and the Mac Mini media server setup we have going now.  But first, say you want to convert all the albums you ripped to FLAC to Apple Lossless (.m4a) under OS X.  You want to know what’s easiest and quickest for batch conversion?

The X Lossless Decoder (see: XLD) is one very good option for OS X.  I find generally his application works best decoding full album single file rips from EAC with .cue sheets.  Usually with EAC you’d have three files, the .log, the .cue and the full album .flac file, XLD will nicely split the .flac into .m4a (Apple Lossless) individual files with little effort.

For larger batches, and because I used Stephen Booth’s “Max” for a lot of ripping, I find batch processing of tags and mass conversion a bit easier.  Where XLD is good on an album by album basis I found that Max was very good for converting whole directories of individual artists with multiple albums.  I find that I’m often fixing tags first in Max and then again in iTunes and then the last step is usually confirming the album art for use with Cover Flow.  It takes probably 5-10 minutes per album and it’d be faster if I had uniformity in my ripping standards.

I think ultimately, as an archive, using EAC and backing up to an image (.flac, .cue & .log) makes the most sense (but takes the longest). For playback and ease of use, unless you’re really crazy about bit perfection, I think the sound quality with Apple Lossless (.m4a) and iTunes is perfectly acceptable, especially with a halfway decent external DAC.  I’ve been using the Mac Mini as our A/V front end and the Apple Remote application for the iPod Touch works very well (over wifi)  allowing me to control iTunes on the Mini.

X Lossless Decoder (XLD)

X Lossless Decoder (XLD)

Stephen Booth's "Max"

Stephen Booth's "Max"

OS X and the “cat” command for appending sequential .zip files

For whatever reason there is certain a level of incompatibility between various .zip (archive) file formats among various operating systems today.  It’s certainly not that you won’t be able to access any file type on any given system, as there are many tools to do so, mostly it’s a question of how many hoops you have to jump through.

Specifically, I had a sequential .zip file that was in multiple chunks where the first file ends in something like:

And the next files in sequence look like this:


OS X comes with a couple of utilities for archives but neither seem to be able to handle this particular sequence (especially if it is AES256 encoded with a password).  There is a $20 piece of software called BetterZip that has no problem with any type I gave it, however, I found a free utility called The Unarchiver which seems to be an excellent replacement for the OS X native ‘‘ and if you use the *nix ‘cat‘ command (see: Concatenation) you can append the sequential files all into one and The Unarchiver will work fine.

Open the Terminal in OS X, red is what you type, assuming all the files you want to append are in your home directory:

computer:~user$ cat zzzzzz.002 zzzzzz.003 >

Where is your new appended file, ready to be unarchived.  I’m sure they teach this to preschoolers in *nix 101, in fact I think there is a book out now called Linux For Lilliputian Lads, but I found it useful.

I’ll be doing a writeup soon of the re-foaming process of my Advent Heritage speakers, they sound better now.