Bicycle Frame Building Workshop in Philadelphia

The Philadelphia Sculpture Gym is hosting a ‘build your own’ bicycle frame building workshop from Jan. 6-10th, 2014 in the evenings.  I was told I’m the first to sign up, which I find remarkable considering the low cost of entry here which includes materials and shop time for 5 evenings of hands on instruction.

Ever frustrated by riding a bike just not shaped well for you? Ever tempted to try and build your own frame, but not sure where to start? This is the class for you!
In this class, students will learn how to build their own bicycle frame from steel tubes, using lugged construction. They will learn about bicycle geometry and handling, and what configurations are typically applied to what kind of riding applications. They will learn the basics of fitting a bicycle frame to a rider, and how to set up a bicycle frame jig.
You will come out of the class with an unpainted steel roadbike frame set up for fast city riding, commuting, or touring, It will accept caliper brakes and 28.6mm threadless headset. Extras (handlebars, seat, pedals, and wheels) are totally up to you!
Class Goals:
Students will leave the class having built their own bicycle frame, fitted specifically for them (or for the person of their choice) from steel tubing. Students will learn about fabricating structures made of thin wall tubing, and about brazing techniques.
(Outside the scope of this class, but highly recommended:  build up your bike. paint your name on the side. ride it around. impress your friends.)

No previous experience required.

So yeah.  I mean, for like $700 all in including the materials, this is an insane deal.  The instructor is Paul Carson who is  an engineer by training and metalworking enthusiast.  Go to their website and contact Jenny Walsh.
Some photos are here from a previous ‘build your own’ workshop:

Kirsten’s DIY Pipe Desk With Salvaged Door

I meant to put up this link to Kirsten McCrea’s nice addition to the world of cast iron pipe based tables using salvaged tops a while ago. She has both a blog and a professional page as she is a visual artist living in Montreal. I wanted to provide a link back to her desk, in part because it turned out so nicely, and I want more people to see how great these tables and desks can turn out with such humble materials.

Kirsten's DIY Pipe & Door Desk

Link: Kirsten's DIY Pipe & Door Desk, photo by Kirsten

LM4780 Balanced Dual Mono-Block Amps

Bought the dual mono LM4780 kit from Peter Daniels’ and received it in the mail the other day. I’m excited, because the National Semiconductors’ LM4780 chip package allows for easy implementation of a bridged/balanced configuration of differential (e.g. balanced XLR/TRS) inputs from professional level sources. Most “pro” grade equipment uses XLR as it allows for longer cable runs and provides a greater degree of noise and signal interference rejection.

On my EMU 0404 USB DAC I’m forced to “balun” from the TRS output into the Denon PMA-850’s RCA line input (note: in this configuration I’m using the EMU 0404 as a pre-amp as well). Sadly the PMA-850 has been blowing fuses and has started to sound muddy and as much as I’d like to pull it apart it’s full of 1970s Japanese solid state circuit technology that I wouldn’t feel comfortable playing with. The LM1875/LM3886 & LM4780 [etc] packages (aka Gainclones or Chip Amps) have a really simple circuit topology and as a result have become really quite popular over the past decade in the DIY audio community.

So I’m excited to finally do some soldering and enclosure design for this kit. Also, I was able to breadboard a slightly better power supply circuit for the EMU 0404 using a LM317 chip; I have a decent 7.5V DC 2A wall wart that I could use to feed the LM317 and then down-regulate to 5V DC 1A for cleaner audio. In my tests, using a bank of D alkaline batteries, there was a definite increase in clarity. My one concern with the EMU 0404 is whether the USB is galvanically/transformer isolated from the line outputs, as I’m sure the USB out of the Mac Mini server is not great for noise. Again, in my limited tests, the external linear regulated LM317 power supply using both USB and Toslink SPDIF inputs improved bass and high-end clarity.

Also, I’ll probably be adding some speaker toe spikes to the old Advent Heritage tower speakers. I found some cheap ones @Parts-Express, $0.48 each. Not bad.

Sam Catch's Gainclone build, Back - on Flickr

“Gainclone build BACK” by Sam_catch, on Flickr (CC License)

lm1875set4 by Nonexistence, on Flickr

“lm1875set4” by Nonexistence, on Flickr

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

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

Metal Shop and Pop: Sheet Steel and You

So I went down to NC for a couple of days to build a welding table with my Dad.  It turned out pretty nicely all things considered.  We needed more practice on our MIG welds, but constructing a 4×4 foot table proved to be good exercise.  We added a small 26 inch long extension off one side that will be my Dad’s cutting area where he’ll slot in steel strap for cutting with his plasma cutter and or Oxy-Acetylene torch if he ever goes that route.  So that was a pretty solid few days of work.  At the metal shop in Brooklyn I’ll have a slightly different tack for building a base for our kitchen counter.  My plan there is to build metal brackets to go around the 3×3″ wooden legs and then finish the skirt with wood and hanging drawers.  Zoe’s aunt has a bed that will replace ours as I’ll be cutting up  the bed frame I build to use for the legs.

Finished. 1/4″ sheet is heavy

MIG – tucked in to prevent death from rotary cutting tools