Thursday 31 October 2019

Drinks display stand

This is another small part of a larger modular project.

The aim is to create a display for drinks bottles and miniatures, which will present them nicely, while at the same time securing them to protect against small amounts of movement. i.e. I'm not expecting them to be secured if the whole stand is tipped over, but they must be able to tolerate the stand being wobbled side-to-side without the bottles clinking or falling over.

There is also the need to balance the trade-off between the display aspect of the unit, and the amount of storage it provides.

After iterating over a number of designs I settled on the idea of having a central area which would display a number of larger bottles, with a frame/shelf element around the back and side edges to hold miniatures (the front would need to be left open to allow access to the bottles).

The base

The base is simple plywood, with foam to support the larger bottles. The foam is spray-glued to the plywood, with cut-outs to place the bottles, and is wrapped in fabric - also spray-glued and stapled.

The frame

The frame is oak, attached through the bottom of the plywood, and supported by the miniatures shelves and the top frame, which is mitred, and screwed to the uprights with dowels to cover the screw holes. The sides are left open, but the back is enclosed with iroko (there is a logic to this that will become apparent later). The mixture of woods creates a nice colour contrast and adds additional support. 

The miniatures shelves

The basic idea behind the miniature shelf is to use a forstner bit to cut out grooves for the bottles to stand in. But this alone raises a couple of problems
  • If they're just sat in holes, it won't be possible to see the labels and know easily what they are.
  • There's no definitive standard size/shape of the bottles.
The latter question has an easy answer, just pick the smallest forstner bit that covers the most bottles that I have to hand - this turned out to be 41mm.

The solution to the first point is to cut the groove off centre, so that it has an open front, allowing the label to be seen, but again, this raises the next question - if the groove is open-fronted, then what's to stop the bottle just falling out?

I'd already planned to line the bottle slots with leather to prevent rattling. By over-sizing the corners of the leather (see below illustration), the leather also acts like a clip to hold the bottles in place, with a sturdy leather disc glued in the bottom to provide extra support.

The finished display

Wednesday 9 October 2019

Repair Cafe

I recently started volunteering at a local 'repair cafe'. It’s a community environmental initiative where people in the local community can bring in small broken consumer electronics, and the volunteers will see if it can be repaired, at no charge, in order to keep items out of the waste stream.

If items can’t be fixed on site, advice is given whether it’s worth repairing, and if so what parts, etc. might be required. If they can be fixed, they’re tested to ensure they’re safe, and weighed so that the organisation can monitor the amount of material kept from landfill.

The other volunteers have a wealth of experience in a number of technical and scientific fields, so I also see it as an opportunity to learn and improve my skill set.

I’m also going to keep a record of the repairs I do, and document them here in the hope that it provides a DIY reference for others who may need similar fixes but aren’t able to access a repair cafe in their area.

So, these are the repairs I was faced with on my first day:
  • An automatic cat feeder – a simple mechanical clock device turning cogs which in turn allowed a lid on a good tray to open after the set time. The mechanism was reported as being slow. Observation of the device over a couple of minutes didn’t really show any sign of being off, and a test over half hour showed some drift – about an extra minute. The device was far from being a precision instrument though, so suggested that they observe the amount of drift over the time period they’re after and adjust the time they set accordingly.
  • An electrical beard trimmer. The mains wire was disconnected. Soldered in place and fixed.
  • A DAB digital radio, on which the LCD display wasn’t functioning. Managed to disassemble and retrieve the faulty part, so that a replacement could be found.
  • A toaster. The lever to push the toast down was stiff. This seemed to be a design flaw in the toaster, where the lever being pushed down would effectively pivot on the rail where it’s mounted, causing it to bind.

    There wasn’t much that could be done to repair it, but was able to advise the user how to workaround it by keeping the lever flat whilst it was being pushed.

  • A halogen cooking lamp thing. The timer and the fan would run, but the halogen lamp wouldn’t turn on. Testing showed no power to the halogen connector.
    Tracing the problem back showed that a potentiometer device (pictured) which set the halogens temperature had broken part.

    Advised the user of the broken part so they can try and get a spare from the manufacturer to attempt a repair next time.

    (Workarounds and partial fixes)
    Needs parts2