Category Archives: Projects

LED Bridge Lamp Base

As I worked out the details of my version of the LED Bridge Lamp by my friend Janis (Opossums) Jakaitis, one of the things I wanted to tweak was the base.

The modifications I focused on were:

  1. Lower the risk — the original base was a very large piece that would take about 25 hours to print and if something failed that would be a lot of time and material to lose so I broke my version of the model into pieces
  2. The slots/vents were slightly asymmetrical so I made my own variant of that so I could print on the side and keep the lines clean compared to printing them vertically
  3. I needed a way to handle height differences in the surface where I’d install the light * *

** The location in my cubicle at work where I wanted to to install this light has two different heights — the metal wall is about 1.5 inches higher than the top of bookcase so I needed a way to compensate for that. My solution will allow you to handle any reasonable height difference you want to tackle.

Here is a finished and an exploded view of the bases: 

Figure 1: All the parts that make up an Enhanced LED Bridge Lamp base
Figure 1: All the parts that make up an Enhanced LED Bridge Lamp base

While my bases look very similar to Janis’ models they were created from scratch but designed to emulate the originals and add a few new features you’ll see as we walk through this post. I also eliminated a few design details like the screw holes (replaced by my magnet solution) and the transition to the cap piece.

Print Details

What did you wind up printing? (Quantities are for what I built, you may need to change them to meet your needs) 

  • Qty 2: Side (side.stl)
  • Qty 2: Side with Power Outlet (SideWithPowerOutlet.stl)
  • Qty 2: Electronics Tray (Electronics_Tray.stl)
  • Qty 1: Base Height Spacer (Base_Height_SpacerV2.stl)
  • Qty 1: Base Height Spacer Tall  (Base_Height_Spacer_TallV2.stl)
  • Qty 2: Magnet Space Filler Block (Magnet_Space_Filler_Block.stl)
  • Qty 2: Center — the core of the base (Center.stl)
  • Qty 2: Cap (cap.stl)
  • Qty 2: Baseplates (BasePlateMamaWithCableHoleV2.stl)
  • Qty 3: Clips (ClipV2Loose.stl)
  • Qty 2: Foot Height Extensions (This STL can be found in Janis’ lamp here)

Material Used: Polymaker Polylite PLA in ‘True Grey’ 

Print Settings:

  • I printed all the side parts with a brim to decrease the likelihood of warping
  • 20% infill, 0.25mm layer height
  • 210C Nozzle Temp

Additional Supplies: 

  • Qty 4: 90lb Neodymium Cup Magnets
  • Qty 4: M4 Flathead Machine Screws
  • Qty 8: M4 Machine Screws (double up the nuts so they don’t back off — or add a lock nut)
  • Qty 8: Hex Button Head Machine Screws to secure base sections to each other
  • Loctite 401 Glue

Build Details / Notes: 

Printing a side of the base
Printing a side of the base

When printing the pieces called out in the print details section above I printed all my pieces with a brim to help reduce or eliminate warping.

Printing the electronics tray with a brim
Printing the electronics tray with a brim

The elements of an assembled base (1 regular side, 1 side with power outlet hole, center, cap, riser and base plate) are designed to fit inside/on top of this electronics tray. The tray is designed to also secure an Adafruit 1/2 size Perma-Proto board which is what I used to house the electronics that control this project. (More details on that in an upcoming post) The tray also provides supports for the height spacer which keeps the magnets in the proper location.

NOTE: You may want to print the tray 1-2% larger in the X and Y dimensions. Otherwise you may find yourself using a fixed belt sander to thin things out a bit. Guess how I know that? 😉 And my machine is really pretty well dialed in.

Electronics Tray Rendering
Electronics Tray Rendering

The height spacers below were designed to align themselves under the electronics tray via the little standoffs you can see in the image below. The height spacer also keeps the magnets secured as the base gets moved around.

Height Spacer
Height Spacer

The height spacer can be extruded to make it as tall or short as you want.  The spacer above is the minimum height as it is the same thickness as the 90lb strength magnets.

Height Spacer (Tall)
Height Spacer (Tall)

As you can see above, extruding this model to make it taller is straightforward. (You can do it by editing the model or in a pinch you can scale the z axis as needed and trim the alignment tabs if they get too tall as a result of the Z scaling)

Magnet Spacer
Magnet Spacer

For taller spacers I also designed a filler block to make up the space between the magnet and the bottom of the electronics tray. The model can also be scaled in the Z axis to adjust the height.

Assembling the base
Assembling the base

The electronics tray also makes a helpful aligner as you glue up the base pieces. I used some small clamps to hold the sides and center together as the glue dries — only takes about 1 minute to dry enough.

NOTE: Be careful that you don’t glue your base into the electronics tray.

In the lower half of the picture above you’ll see the baseplate sitting upside down in the height riser so that I could glue the blue clips in place. Once the clips are secure I flipped the plate over and glued it on top of the height riser block.

Base plate with clips glued in place and glued to the height riser block
Base plate with clips glued in place and glued to the height riser block

NOTE: The base plate on one side does NOT require the clips.

Be sure to test fit your bridge section and the two plates and file as needed to make sure you have a good snug fit. Filing usually meant squaring up the underside of the clip to make sure it squarely engages with the bridge superstructure section.

Testing out the base
Testing out the base

The base plate is glued to the top of the height riser. That assembly is glued to the cap piece (it has a nice indent in there to make alignment easy) and that second assembly is glued to the top of the base (center, side and side with power outlet hole)

Completed base pieces (angle)
Completed base pieces (angle)

You can insert M3 button head screws into the holes shown below to secure the top section of the base to the electronics tray. The screws tap themselves into the plastic and hold well.

Completed base pieces (side)
Completed base pieces (side)

Examining the underside of an assembled base section you can see how well the magnets fit.

NOTE: Use two nuts on top of the screw securing each magnet so they don’t get loose.

I installed the electronics into the taller of the bases and drilled a small hole to allow the USB cable to pass through so I could flash new firmware onto the micro controller after the lamp was installed.

Assembled base with button head screws installed and testing the wiring
Assembled base with button head screws installed and testing the wiring

If you have any questions about building the base, please let me know in the comments section  below.

You can navigate back to the Enhanced LED Bridge Lamp Summary here. 

Take care,
-Bill Rainford
@TinWhiskerzBlog
@TheRainford

 

LED Bridge Lamp Summary

As an engineer I love all things that are shiny and blinky. Like many other engineers I am a cubicle dweller. I wanted to create something in my cube that would brighten up my workspace and make me smile whenever I’m working there. What follows is a series of posts that will guide you through how I designed and built my version of the LED Bridge Lamp which is based off of the LED Bridge Lamp (Universal Segment) by my friend Janis (Opossums) Jakaitis on Thingiverse here. It was a great looking project and would be the perfect addition to any cubicle in need of some blinky.

Side view of my LED Bridge Lamp running a rainbow animation.
Side view of my LED Bridge Lamp running a rainbow animation.

High Level Summary of Changes:

  • Universal Segment Bridge Lamp with 2 horizontal (straight) sections
  • Custom mini light up billboard at the top of the bridge
  • Custom light shades with enclosed channels
  • Custom designed bases with integrated 90lb magnets and adjustable heights for uneven surfaces
  • Custom wifi enabled electronics to control the display
  • Custom power supply with enclosure
  • Each LED strip (2 in the bridge and 1 in the sign) an be controlled independently

 

LED Bridge Lamp Animations Video on Vimeo

LED Bridge Lamp Animations Video on YouTube

3D Models

You can find the 3D models I used to build this project on Thingiverse here. They are free to download, use and modify.

How long did this take to build?

  • Base Height Spacer Tall (Qty 1) 6:40 min (PLA)
  • Base Height Spacer (Qty 1) 2:07 min (PLA)
  • Base Side (Qty 2) 4:15 min each (PLA)
  • Base Side With Power Outlet (Qty 2) 4:15 min each (PLA)
  • Base Center (Qty 2) 5:09 min each (PLA)
  • Base Plate Mama with Cable Hole (Qty 2) 49 min each (PLA)
  • Base Cap Plate (Qty 2) 1:12 min each (PLA)
  • Clips (Qty 3) 10 min each (PLA)
  • Base Height Extension (Qty 2) 3:07 min each (PLA)
  • Electronics Tray (Qty 2) 4:06min (PLA)
  • Magnet Space Filler Block (Qty 2) 1:06 min each (PLA)
  • Sign Holder (Qty 1) 54 min (PLA)
  • LED Light Channel Segment A (Qty 14) 1:33 min each (nGen)
  • LED Light Channel Segment A with Wire Cutout (Qty 2) 1:32 min each (nGen)
  • LED Light Channel Segment B (Qty 16) 1:33 min each (nGen)
  • Straight LED Light Channel with Cover  (Qty 2) 2:47 min each (nGen)
  • Universal Segment Curved Superstructure Set (Qty 16) 2:42 min each (PLA)
  • Universal Segment Straight Superstructure Set (Qty 2) 2:25 min each (PLA) — light channel from set deleted for this print

Total Number of Pieces: 74
Total Print Time: 145 hours!

Estimated 3D Modeling/Design Time: 50 hrs 
Estimated Assembly Time: 12 hrs
Estimated Coding Time: 4 hrs
Estimated Testing Time: 12 hrs

Total Time:  223 hours 

NOTE: The above does not include printing another 25 segments of straight superstructure and light shades, misprints, having 8 segments of assembled PLA superstructure melt by being too close to a radiator, test prints and re-prints. I estimate that I have something around 300 hours into this project.

Build Details (This section will be updated as I publish more related posts):

Take care,
-Bill
@TinWhiskerzblog

For additional posts related to this project check out this the ‘LED Bridge Lamp’ tag. I’ll be adding more posts giving details on how I built my version of the LED Bridge Lamp.

LED Bridge Lamp Superstructure

The superstructure of the LED Bridge Lamp is one of its most prominent features. I printed mine using Polymaker Polylite Translucent Blue filament.

I started off by printing the standard set of flat printing models from Janis’ universal segment version of the lamp here. I also printed a set of the aligner/clamping rings that aid in assembly.

Printing a single set of the original bridge superstructure along with the aligners/clamps
Printing a single set of the original bridge superstructure along with the aligners/clamps

When I started working on this project it was the middle of winter and I think a combination of room temp and small surface areas caused some issues with pieces warping and even popping off the heated bed plate.

Printing two straight sections of bridge superstructure
Printing two straight sections of bridge superstructure

To remedy this I started printing the superstructure sections with a brim. Around this time I also started to eliminate the printing of the original shade. In Cura I broke the model (which was a group of pieces) into its pieces and would delete the shade. This also allowed me to fit a few more pieces on the build plate. I decided to make my own lamp shade/diffuser which I will cover in another post.

Printing two sets of bridge superstructure with a brim and without the shade
Printing two sets of bridge superstructure with a brim and without the shade

I would clean up the prints with an X-acto knife and square mill file. Each section didn’t need much cleanup. Most of the work was spent testing the tabs on each section and making sure it fit securely onto another section. The focus usually was making sure the corners were flat and that the tabs squarely locked over the end of the next section by filing the underside of the tab. Next I would dry fit the pieces in the assembly rings.

Once dry fit I would slide the top of the superstructure out a bit, apply a drop or two of LocTite 401 to the assembly tabs and slide the piece back into place. I would then remove the lampshade, run a bead of glue down the retaining lip on each side the superstructure and then slide the shade back in so the glue could set. After a minute or so the alignment rings could be removed and you can move on to the next section. By the time the next piece was filed and ready the last one was dry so I only needed one set of the rings.

Completed bridge section drying in the clamps
Completed bridge section drying in the clamps

Below you can see me testing a dry fitted piece against a completed straight section of bridge.

Testing to make sure each section fits well into the next
Testing to make sure each section fits well into the next

The above sample pieces have a translucent blue light shade from the original model, but as you’ll see in the upcoming post on the shades I went with an remix that I think you may also like.

Accumulating bridge sections to assemble
Accumulating bridge sections to assemble

As things got up and running I had a little production line going — churning out bridge sections and and assembling as I could find the time.

I wanted to get a feel for how big the lamp would be, beyond the calculated dimensions so I assembled 2/3 of an arc — just the assembled bridge sections without the shades.

Test assembly of the bridge superstructure sections
Test assembly of the bridge superstructure
sections

It was fun to see the project coming together. The above assembly I put to the side in the spare bedroom where I have my 3D printer etc. It was near a window and a baseboard radiator. Given that the PLA is extruded at 210C and at most my sealed baseboard radiator is putting out 100C I wasn’t worried about melting. After a few weeks I thought one of my young kids got to it, but as it turned out the PLA was softened by the sun and/or radiator and 9 assembled sections of the bridge lamp were warped/bent beyond what I was willing to accept so that was a big set back. After another 40 hours or so of printing I eventually replaced all those pieces and was careful to keep the lamp sections away from even that modest source of heat.

I started to stockpile the assembled bridge superstructure sections as I worked on the shades which will be covered in another post.

You can navigate back to the Enhanced LED Bridge Lamp Summary here. 

Take care,
-Bill Rainford
@TinWhiskerzBlog
@TheRainford

Adafruit Feather BLE + NeoPixel Lamp

Like any red blooded engineer I like nice designs, shiny objects and blinking lights. One of the projects that burrowed its way into my subconscious and helped push me over the edge into buying a 3D printer earlier this year was the Adafruit Feather BLE + NeoPixel lamp with 3D printed Voronoi Shade that plays some animations by the Ruiz Brothers over at Adafruit. It’s a great addition to any office desk or maker workbench. After playing with the sample code which simply played a short animation when you pressed a button in the app I decided to augment the code to continuously play animations and add a few more to the mix.

Feather BLE light paired with iOS app
Feather BLE light paired with iOS app

You can view detailed step/by step instructions on printing this lamp  here on the Adafruit Learning System.  What follows in this post is a description of what changes/modifications I made to the build and additional functionality I added into the software running on the Bluefruit Feather.

Check out this video showing what I did with the software for this project here:

Software Revision Highlights:

  • Currently selected animation will loop continuously without interruption (Original sample plays 1 animation and stops until another button is pressed)
  • Cleaned up animation library/methods, fixed some issues with Adafruit sample code and finished off some incomplete methods
  • Added additional animations to the up, down, left and right buttons in the Adafruit Bluetooth application

You can find the source code for the demo used in the video here on GitHub.

3D Print complete, not gather up the required electronics
3D Print complete, now gather up the required electronics

Notes on Building This Project: 
I printed the base out of ABS filament and the Voronoi shade from light blue translucent PLA filament. I chose not to glue the shade onto the top ring of the base as I like to be able to show off the electronics. I friction fit the clear disk into the bottom of the lampshade so it stays securely as one piece. I also omitted the battery as I only plan to run the lamp in an office setting wherein I have access to plenty of USB ports.

Solder and assemble the light
Solder and assemble the light

BIG NOTE: As this caused me some headaches and wasted time. In the Adafruit Learning System write-up for this lamp, make sure to follow the Fritzing circuit diagram here and NOT from the step by step photograph here. The photograph shows one of the blue wires going into ‘BAT’ and not the expected ‘3V’. You should be powering the NeoPixels off the 3V pin.  

Flash the firmware and test the rig before final assembly of the case.
Flash the firmware and test the rig before final assembly of the case.

Once I finished all the soldering I fit the board, wires and ring into the bottom half of the base and flashed the firmware onto the device and made sure it lit up and worked as expected.

Lid screwed in place to help secure the NeoPixel ring
Lid screwed in place to help secure the NeoPixel ring

Next up I screwed on the top half of the base and started working on the animations I wanted to use and assigned them to various buttons in the Adafruit ‘Bluefruit’ application.

Running animations
Running animations

Last up was testing the completed lamp. It lights up a dark room more that I expected which is nice and is clearly visible in a well lit room. Some of the animations in the above video are far better in person as the DSLR tends to blend a lot of the mixed colors into shades of white — you’ll have to see it in person by building your own.

Red alert, incoming message
Red alert, incoming message

With the above lamp completed you can also tie it into the IfThisThenThat (IFTTT.com) ecosystem via Adafruit IO.  IFTTT allows Internet of Things (IoT) devices to react to a surprisingly large amount of interesting stimuli — if you get a certain type of email, if your phone shows up on your home wifi network, if an IoT sensor gets a certain reading your device and react to that message and carry out your desired task — its an incredible system and will be the focus of my next post, stay tuned.

-Bill
@TinWhiskerzBlog

P.S. If you build your own variant of this project, please leave a comment and share your thoughts and modifications.

Tool Rack for Pliers

The workshop is my happy place — I go there to create. One of my favorite things to do out in my woodworking shop is to build cabinets, organizers and jigs to make it easier to work or accomplish a given task. I’ve been applying that to my recent work with 3D printing and electronics hardware hacking.

By training I am a software engineer and a preservation carpenter — yep the is an unusual mix to some — but to me I use the same part of my brain to envision a large software application and break it down into manageable pieces of code and then write them that I use to envision a chair and break it down into all the steps and pieces that start at a tree and result in a chair.

After getting some more work time at the Maker Workbench that I recently completed I realized that my hand tool storage was lacking.

I was storing my pliers, strippers, nippers and similar tools in the holes on the sides of the metal racks that support my workbench.

For tools that only get used infrequently the holes on the support posts of my maker workbench do a good job at keeping them off the desk, but are a pain to get in and out of for frequently used tools.
For tools that only get used infrequently the holes on the support posts of my maker workbench do a good job at keeping them off the desk, but are a pain to get in and out of for frequently used tools.

It seemed like a great idea — I can see the tools, they are off the workbench and reasonably accessible, but for common operations I felt I was wasting too much time and energy getting them in and out of those holes — as sometimes they would catch a bit on the way out.

After thinking about some of the optimizations I made out in my woodworking shop and watching videos like some of Adam Savage’s shop tours, behind the scenes and shop projects builds from tested.com and this video in particular which made the case for not using drawers I wanted to come up with something efficient to organize the tools I used most often on the bench.

The idea bounced around in my subconscious for a few weeks until I finally came up with the following tool rack for my pliers and similar tools:

Angle view of completed tool rack
Angle view of completed tool rack

How I built the tool rack:

The rack is about 6″ tall, the base is about 6″ wide and the rods are about 12″ long. I bought a 36″ long piece of O1 Tool Steel Round Rod, Polished Finish, Precision Ground, Annealed, Metric 10mm from Amazon here. I cut the rod on my abrasive cutoff saw and ground off any burs and chamfered the cut ends a bit so I would be sure they’d seat nicely in the 3D printed ends.

Test prints of end caps for 10mm rod.
Test prints of end caps for 10mm rod. (Left is Dark blue nGen filament, right is clear blue PLA)

I then made what I felt was a reasonable sized 10mm end cap in SketchUp and printed it out. It was a tiny bit tight so I measured the rod and the print and adjusted things a bit and tried printing at 102, 105 and 108%. 105% was the sweet spot and gave me a nice tight fit. I also made a variant of the end cap to include a #4-40 machine screw to see if that would keep the cap on there even tighter but felt it was negligibly better in this case and recommend you print 1 or more of these caps to dial in your printer an get a real nice fit. If you still find the cap is loose you can epoxy it into place.

Printing each side of the tool rack. Printed with a brim to try and minimize any warping.
Printing each side of the tool rack. Printed with a brim to try and minimize any warping.

With the printer dialed in and the cap in hand it was time to print the sides. Rather than waste material and to increase the aesthetics of the rack I added a series of holes to the model to give it a more pleasing and modern look.

(Left) Side with brim still attached. (Right) Cleaned up piece ready to go.
(Left) Side with brim still attached. (Right) Cleaned up piece ready to go.

I printed the sides one at a time with a brim to try and minimize any warping.

View from the side of the completed rack.
View from the side of the completed rack.

The cleanup was easy with an X-acto knife and the assembly was simply inserting the rods into the printed end pieces and start using the rack.

3/4 view of completed rack loaded up with pliers and nippers
3/4 view of completed rack loaded up with pliers and nippers

The above described rod is a bit on the expensive side, costing about $15 but the ground and polished look is what I wanted and it adds a pretty good amount of weight to the tool rack and I’ve found it stays right where I leave it on the bench. It works well with all the small and medium size pliers shown below and can also accommodate some of my larger and specialty channel-locks and similar hand tools. If you are on a budget, simple mild steel rod from a hardware store or even a wooden dowel can be used.

Top bar is about 6" above the bench top and can accommodate most sizes of plier and similar tool you are likely to encounter on a maker workbench
Top bar is about 6″ above the bench top and can accommodate most sizes of plier and similar tool you are likely to encounter on a maker workbench

I’ve shared out the plans and SketchUp files for the end caps and rack sides (both solid sides and the sides with the circular holes) up on Thingiverse.com here.

If you make or remix this project, please share some pics or notes in the comments below.

Take care,
-Bill Rainford
@TinWhiskerzBlog
@TheRainford

 

Maker Workbench

It can be tough working on a maker project if you don’t have a good space to work. Many times my electronics work surface was an ESD mat on the dining room table, but as my projects grew and my family grew I was under increasing pressure to find somewhere else to work. (Really it was the 3D printer that put my wife over the edge — rightfully so). I also didn’t want to have my electronics out in the garage which is my woodworking shop and full of saw dust.

The task of finding a decent place to work on electronics was more of a challenge than I expected. Lots of folks who left the dining room table seem to work on card tables or random repurposed Ikea tables and benches or purchase very expensive commercial electronics benches that are out of the range of most folks working part time as a maker.  I knew there must be something in the middle that could be a reasonable solution and a reasonable bench.

As I was reading my copy of “Practical Electronics For Inventors: 4th Edition” by Paul Scherz and Simon Monk there was a brief mention of a DIY Maker Workbench that caught my eye. If you have the book it is on pages 632-633, but be careful as you might miss it buried deep in the bowels of this tome, with just a brief description and a couple of diagrams but no photos of it in use.

I wanted to rectify that problem and document how I built mine as I had to make some modifications and additions that I thought others might be interested in.

Since the the book above was written the 18″ deep metal frame that was the basis of the bench is no longer available through Home Depot and the company that made it seems to have been swallowed up by another company, but they still make and stock a 24″ deep version. I’ve compiled a hardware list below that includes all the materials I used along with links for anything that was not a simple commodity item. With the instructions from the book and my additions below I’m sure you can build yourself a great electronics/maker workbench.

Other highlights of the bench and my modifications are:

  • Full Spectrum LED Work Utility Light (Uses very little power and is dimmable. Leaves more power available on this circuit for my electronics)
  • Custom built work top with Formica surface and hard maple edging
  • Black shelf hardware and brackets
  • Cherry colored shelving
  • Integrated USB outlet
  • Corrected paint

Parts + Hardware:

Tools:

  • Electrical: Wire stripper(s), Romex Jacket Slitter or Utility Knife, Wire Cutters, Pliers, Phillips and Slotted Screwdrivers,  Electrical Receptacle Tester (~$5-10 and worth it)
  • Woodworking Tools for Bench Top: Circular saw + guide fence OR Table Saw, Router with large flush trim bit & 1/8″ rounder bit, Biscuit Joiner + Biscuits, PVA Wood Glue (e.g. TiteBond), 1.5″ Wood Screws or Drywall Screws, Drill + basic set of bits that can also handle sheet metal, J Roller (For rolling on top of the formica as it is applied), Jig Saw or Coping Saw,

Highlight Reel from the Build:

Working on the slab for the bench top. Two pieces of CDX plywood topped off with a sheet of MDF.
Working on the slab for the bench top. Two pieces of CDX plywood topped off with a sheet of MDF.

I ripped the plywood and MDF on the table saw and cross cut it using a circular saw with a guide fence leaving it about 1″ too long on purpose. Once I screwed the layers together I was able to use the guide fence to cross cut it again to final size — by doing this I know all my layers will be perfectly lined up. Make sure to account for the edging when you figure out how big your bench will be. If you work carefully you’ll want to shoot for a bench top that is about 1/4″ narrower that the metal frame is wide. That should leave a nice 1/8″ shadow line and give you room to get it seated. Also the metal is not always welded all that great on these frames as I know mine was not 100% square and many get damaged in shipping and need to be bent back into shape.

Attaching the Hard Maple edge banding to the slab.
Attaching the Hard Maple edge banding to the slab.

Next up I milled some hard maple stock to be the edging for the bench slab. I carefully mitered each quarter and used a biscuit joiner and glued in biscuits to secure the edging. (By using biscuits there are no nail holes to fill in) Also note that the edging should only cover the top two layers of substrate — the MDF and first layer of plywood as the lowest layer of plywood is what keys the bench top into the center shelf of the metal frame.

Edge clamps
Edge clamps

I used edge clamps to secure the edging as it dried.

Grid layout for screwing together the bench top.
Grid layout for screwing together the bench top.

When screwing together the 3 layers of substrate I laid out a grid on the bottom of each layer that way my screws were spaced evenly. It also allowed me to make sure my screws would not directly overlap between layers.

Cutting holes for outlet boxes in the rear skirt for the bench top.
Cutting holes for outlet boxes in the rear skirt for the bench top.

When cutting the outlet holes for the back splash I laid them out evenly and then marked out where they would be. I drilled a small hole in each corner and a large one in the center with enough room to allow the blade of my jig saw to fit. I sawed out the space for each outlet looking to be about 1/16″-1/8″ larger than the outlet box. I also used a file and rasp to clean up any rough edges.

Hard maple banding around the rear skirt as well.
Hard maple banding around the rear skirt as well.

With the outlet holes in place I edged the back splash with hard maple to match the bench surface and to reinforce the MDF substrate.

Contact Cement
Contact Cement

I rough cut the formica a couple inches bigger in each direction for what it needs to cover using saw blade with a high number of teeth — 40-60 or a dedicated laminate blade would work. Then it was time to apply the contact cement. The MDF will generally absorb more than the formica as it is more porous. You want to apply it liberally and evenly using a brush, roller or spatula and bit of cardboard. As it dries you’ll see where you need some more as you go. When it dries to the point that it is evenly tacky — meaning your finger will stick to it a bit — it’s time to apply the Formica.

Evenly apply the contact cement on the substrate and on the formica
Evenly apply the contact cement on the substrate and on the formica

I usually put a few dowels out on the bench substrate and then get the Formica all lined up but not touching each other.  Once the two tacky surfaces meet they cannot be pulled apart so you need to get this right the first time and the dowels help you to get the alignment right before committing to it. That is also why we cut the sheet larger and trim it back once secured.  Start from the center and work your way out using a J-Roller applying as much force as you can muster. As you work your way out to the edge you can remove more dowels until the Formica is in place. Then keep working the J-Roller until you get rid of any/all air pockets and bubbles taking longer and longer strokes working from the center out and then end to end.

Bench top with formica and rounded edges
Bench top with formica and rounded edges

To trim the Formica I use a flush cutting router bit in a router to trim back the laminate so that it is flush with the edging. I then take a 1/8″ radius round over bit to ease all the edges with the hard maple.  With the bench top complete it was time to move on to the electrical work and assembly.

Fittings for use with armored cable
Fittings for use with armored cable

For outlets make sure you get all of them with the right angle bracket as shown above and as shown here.  That bracket is needed in order to secure the outlets to the back splash on the bench top and for the upper outlets to attach them to the metal frame.

Spray painting the two visible outlet boxes black.
Spray painting the two visible outlet boxes black.

I used Rustoleum Black Textured paint to paint the two outlets that will be for the light switch and its outlet since they will be visible. I also bought that can of paint to match the finish on the metal shelving/rack that is the core of this bench since mine came from HomeDepot.com and had lots of rub spots on it from shipping and that would have bothered me to see every day.

Wiring up the back of the bench.
Wiring up the back of the bench.

I assembled the metal shelving rack as per the instructions it came with and the height of the shelves roughly in line with what the book described. Once assembled take a chair and sit at it and make sure its at a comfortable height to do your electronics work — likely a couple inches higher than what I’d want for typing at a computer. Then lift the bench top into place — you’ll want help with this as its HEAVY and I have mine in our spare bedroom upstairs so I dread moving it sometime in the future.
I attached the backsplash to the bench top using 2″ wood screws — note I say wood screws and not drywall screws which are flimsy in comparison — drywall screws have much thinner shanks that can easily snap. I then punched out the necessary holes in the outlets and screwed them into place with 5/8″ long screws.

Mark and number the locations for the shelving supports.
Mark and number the locations for the shelving supports.

I used 4 shelf uprights for my bench as I felt the two called out in the book would be too flimsy especially as my shelves will be covered in books and hardware and I don’t want the shelves to droop.  I measured out locations that would space the uprights equally and marked the uprights and the bench with a silver sharpie and numbered them so if I have to move this bench I can re-assemble it with the exact same pieces in the same location.

Install the shelving supports with self tapping metal screws.
Install the shelving supports with self tapping metal screws.

I then took a center punch (or in a pinch a nail set would do) and using a hammer I hit the location I want to drill through the metal hard in order to make a small dent. This will help the drill bit stay where I want it as I drill through the metal. I secured the shelf supports to the top, middle and bottom rails of the metal shelving. I also wanted to make sure they were evenly spaced between the outlets as the armored cable will need to work around them as we’ll see below.

12-2 Romex cable. Remove the yellow outer jacket.
12-2 Romex cable. Remove the yellow outer jacket.

I cut the cable a solid amount longer than the distance between each box so I would have plenty of 12 gauge wire to work with. I then stripped off the yellow rolex wire jacked as these wires will be fed through the BX metal cable armor and fittings.

Make sure to leave a generous amount of wire on each end of the armor so you have room to make your connections in the outlet box.
Make sure to leave a generous amount of wire on each end of the armor so you have room to make your connections in the outlet box.

I cut each bit of cable armor to size and test fit it with the fittings as shown above. I then fed the wire through the armor and installed each assembly into the appropriate outlet boxes and secured the nuts that hold the fittings in the outlet boxes.  (see below). Note that the armored cable goes behind the shelf supports.

Test fitting the armored cable and related fittings
Test fitting the armored cable and related fittings

Use a heavy duty 12 gauge or heavier extension cord to connect your bench to the wall outlet. You’ll cut off the female end and wire it into the GFCI.

Right angle fitting for armored cable
Right angle fitting for armored cable

I chose to put the outlet for the LED light and switch on the back side of the bench and run the armored cable up and around the back of the bench. I secured the cabling with a bunch of black plastic zip ties. I also needed the cabling to make a 90 degree right angle to connect the backsplash wiring to the outlet switch. The above fitting made this task easy. (See parts list for proper name and model)

Completed rear wiring
Completed rear wiring

With the cabling in place it was time to add the shelves and start installing the receptacles.

Install the outlets
Install the outlets

I put each switch in front of the outlet where I wanted it to make sure things were in useful positions. On the backsplash from left to right I have: 20Amp Tamper Resistant (TR) GFCI outlet, 20Amp Decora TR Outlet, 20Amp Decora TR Outlet + 2 USB ports in the center, 20Amp Decora TR Outlet and another 20Amp Decora TR Outlet.  The top left is an outlet for the overhead utility LED light fixture. Top right is a light switch which works out well as its just above where the light switch on the wall is for the room lights. I also ground the metal of the bench frame to the ground of this circuit.  The LED light fixture is secured with more black plastic zip ties and the cord for it is secured in the same way.

Install the switch and the LED light fixture.
Install the switch and the LED light fixture.

I was careful in my wiring to make sure everything downstream of the GCFI was cabled correctly and checked the ground using a receptacle tester like this one.  Once you test it with live power make sure you test the GFCI and make sure all downstream outlets are cut off by the GFCI when it is tripped.

Completed bench
Completed bench

With the circuits all working it was time to put on the faceplates for the outlets and start loading up the bench. I have my ESD mat which is grounded out to the wall outlet so we don’t have a grounding loop. I have my Lulzbot TAZ6 on the left and my ESD mat, soldering stations nd fume extractor on the right.

Completed bench with 3D printer and electronics tooling
Completed bench with 3D printer and electronics tooling

So far the bench has been working out well and it has been great to be able to leave a project on the bench and come back to it undisturbed.

If you build your own version of this workbench, please send me a note with some pictures or leave a comment below

Take care,
-Bill
@TinWhiskerzBlog
@TheRainford

P.S. Since I completed the above bench I’ve also added 2 LED monitors and I’m working on a CNC controlled gaming keyboard tray, so please stay tuned for that in an upcoming post. Please consider following this blog via one of the ‘Follow this blog’ widgets on the webpage or via my Facebook Page or Twitter Feed.

P.P.S. This blog is new so please bare with me as I add to it. If you are into woodworking I have a long running blog on my traditional woodworking and writing you can find here: RainfordRestorations.com