Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Building a bookshelf door aka Put the candle back!

It all started out when my wife said, hey we could do that, as we watched Young Frankenstein.

Like a good designer, I put the concept into a sketch and spent countless hours detailing it, measuring, re-measuring, and measuring again. The first thing to do was to get the wall up with an opening in it big enough for the bookcase.

I decided to make the bookcase the same width as the hallway it would open up into so that if we left it open it would tuck into the end of the hall and look like it was supposed to be there.

The case had to hold blue-ray cases and DVD's so the shelf height and depth was dictated by that. I left 3 inches at the bottom for a kick plate and put in as many shelves as i cold to fill the height of the opening. Since there is duct work above the hallway, I was restricted to 78" total. Each shelf ended up being 9 inches high and 6 inches deep. Since it was a door that would have to be closed, I had to leave a bit of depth for a lip on each shelf so the cases wouldn't fly off the shelves if the door got closed too hard.

The width of the case was dictated by the overall length of the wall it was on and the spacing of the sconces etc. I knew that I had to have a speaker for the surround in a certain position based on the seating distance so that dictated the centre of either a wall space or a pillar. I also had a bunch of photos I wanted up so by time I worked everything out the bookcase ended up being 40 inches finished which was the same as the wall sections and gave me a 15 inch pillar for sconces and one half that right up on the stage.

Once all the measurements were done, I had to build the bookcase. Since it was going to be hinged on one corner by a piano hinge, it had to be beefy. I decided to use 3/8" plywood and double it up with stepped corners. The parts were, 2 sides, top and bottom, shelves, shelf spacers, outer top and outer bottom, kicks on the front and back and a 1/8" backing board. Facing wood to clean up the shelf edges and stopper lips to keep the cases on the shelves.

I made a cut plan and got everything out of 1 and a bit full sheets. Everything got glued and pin nailed together. Now just a hint here. I framed it up square but twisted on purpose. The reason for that is when the door is closing the top leading edge touches about 2 inches before the bottom leading edge where the door latch is. That way the case is under tension when it is latched closed. When you pull the candle holder to release the door, it pops open a bit. Had it been perfectly flat it would require some mechanism to open it up, or you would have to push it open while holding the candle holder. I wanted it to pop open on it's own.

Once I got it framed up and ready to install, I put it in place, positioned it forward where I wanted it and put a 1/8 inch set of shims on the top then shimmed the bottom until the gap was tight. I lined up the front hinge side exactly where I wanted it and marked the hinge then screwed it into the wall.

The door jamb on the striker side had to be angled so that when the door sweeps open it clears the jamb. If you make the jamb square the leading edge of the door will bind on it. The facing jamb where the front of the case touches when it is closed was just drywall with a corner bead and mud finish. Flat, square and clean. The top trim that hides the upper gap is a piece of walnut. It is at the same height as the top of the sound absorption frames which will go in at a later date. 

The latching mechanism is a simple lever door handle and latch that was mounted inside the jam instead of the door and has a cable on it so when you pull the candle holder it activates the latch. I had to put an extra spring on it as the friction and the weight of the candle holder was too much for the internal spring return mechanism. In the future I will just replace the whole mechanical mechanism with a servo and a small switch in the candle holder so all you have to do is take the candle out of the holder and the door will pop open.

All finished up and you can't tell that it is a door. I left the case a bit long so that when the carpet went in I would have to trim it up to slide over the carpet. I'd say it is about 1/8" into the pile that way when it is closed it looks like the carpet goes under it as if the case kick plate was put on the carpet like a base board.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Building a Star Field Ceiling

This is the end result of about 3 weeks solid work on the theatre room by my self. I'm going to focus on the star ceiling build process for this post.

I decided on a 328 strand star ceiling kit that had a dimming feature and a twinkle wheel. There was also 3 different sizes of fibre so I was able to pick out some of the brighter stars and use larger optic for those. At the end of it all you really can't see the difference between the .5 and the 1.5mm fibre when it is lit up. I wouldn't bother with the different sizing if I were doing it again. 

The first thing I had to do was to cut my 5/8" mdf panels to size and prep them so there would be a gap between the sub ceiling and the panels. I went with some helpful tips I found on the internet and made a few changes to make it better. The actual width was just under 8 feet and the front end had a curve.

Each end panel would have a 2 inch wide border on three sides while the centre panel would have the border on the sides only. The remaining ends of the panels would have a type of tongue and holder affair so one panel would bolt to the ceiling and the next one would rest on that one and wouldn't require any screws through the facing.

Suffice to say 328 stars was the right number for a 10' by 8 foot ceiling. I also decided pretty early on to be true to the constellations and actually have them laid out so when you look up you can pick out a bunch. I can't remember where I got the star map from, but it was big and had everything I could need to lay out my pattern. Shoot me a line if you want a full size copy of it reversed for drilling. It took 128 sheets of 8-1/2" by 14" legal paper to print out the whole star map.

I used a countersink bit to drill the holes from the back side as I knew that I would have to use hot glue to hold the fibres in place and this way there would be a cup to fill so to speak.

Once the panels were drilled and painted in black on the down side, I used spray adhesive to stick a fake suede material to them. This is where an electric stapler comes in handy as there was an ass-load of staples used all around the perimeters of the panels to hold the fabric in place.

As it turns out the hot glue was too hot and kept melting the fibre. I had to come up with a way of letting the glue cool a bit which ended up being pumping it out above the fibre and using a stick to push it into the hole around each fibre. I also had to use an awl to pre punch each hole as the fibres wouldn't go through the fabric without it being pierced.

I ran 4 inch deck screws diagonally through the soffit down panels up through the star ceiling borders and right into the sub ceiling. With 4 screws on each edge this was not going anywhere.

I used a drywall panel lift for installing the fibres as well as holding the panels up until I could screw them in place. If you don't have one... get one.

You can see here the first panel in place with all the fibres running out of the 5/8" gap. I had to do one panel at a time as the fibres are only 12 feet long and the longest run was just under that.

All said and done it took me 3 full days to build the star ceiling from start to flipping the switch. The whole thing material wise cost about $600 cdn plus all my time. Now, the value when we sit in the theatre room with the lights dimmed down and the stars twinkling above our heads... priceless.

The black suede material disappears in the dark and the ceiling looks as if it is a huge skylight opening out to a pitch black night with only stars in the sky.

Monday, 27 October 2014

How to paint your wall like a pro.

I've seen quite a few articles on how to paint your walls and I can't say any of them have actually been decent. So here is my post on how to paint your walls like a pro. I'll list off the steps then go into detail about each.

I've got a room to paint myself and I'll be updating this post with video for each step once I get rolling on that project.

1. Prep the walls
2. Prep the space
3. Cutting the corners
4. Primer
5. Sanding
6. Cutting the corners with finish coat
7. Painting first coat
8. Sanding
9. Cutting the corners again
10. Painting second coat
11. Cleaning up

That is it, and that is why a pro makes your walls look great. There is more to it than just slapping paint on the wall.

1. Prep the walls

This is where you get a container of DAP or some other quick dry filler and patch all the pin holes you made over the years in the walls. First thing is to take a drywall sanding block with a 220 grid sanding pad and sand all the lint and crap the last painter painted onto the wall. Then you fill the nail or pin holes you made over the years. Put a bit of DAP or other filler on with a spatula by pressing it straight into the hole, then scraping it off. It takes a bit of practice to do it right. You want to leave a 1 to 2 inch square or circle of DAP that is nice and thin, but still leave enough to sand down flat.

If you have a larger hole such as from a wall plug, put some DAP on your finger and squish it into the hole. Once it dries, give it a light sanding and move on to the spatula stage above.
Now, using a fine grit (220 or 320 grit) sanding sponge go over the patches lightly until they are flat. You might find yourself right down to the old paint again. That is fine.

2. Prep the space

Now it is time to lay down your drop cloths, or tape down construction paper, or use plastic... Whatever you like to protect the floor if you care. Take your painters tape... The green stuff... Stay away from the 30 day crap... A post it note has more stick... Get the 7 day stuff and trim out all your baseboards with 1" tape. You can also trim out the ceiling and around all doors and windows. You don't have to cover the whole board, just the top inch that meets the wall.

3. Cutting the Corners with Primer

Get your brush ready. Go to the sink and soak your bush real good. Getting the bristles wet right up to the handle will make cleaning it easier. Shake it out then put the handle between you palms and spin it out like you were trying to make a fire with a stick. Okay, now put paint in your tray. Using the Brush dab down into the paint and dab it straight up an ddown on the roller part of the tray. This will load the bristles up with paint. You don't have to Psycho stab the thing, and you will have to dip and dab a few times the first time to load it up properly. You don't want the brush dripping with paint, but you really don't want to scrape the brush against the side of the tray to pull paint off it.

Since you taped up the ceiling and trim, you can paint right up against the tape. Don't go freakin' crazy and get a tonne of paint all over the tape. Take your time and try to be clean with it. Make it a game because when you get to the point where you don't get any paint on the tape, you won't need the tape at all for cutting. Think of it like levelling up.

You will not be using the flat side of the brush for cutting. You will be using it thought for feathering. You want to use the brush sideways so the wide part of the brush is parallel to the edge you are painting. You will also keep the brush on a 30 to 45 degree angle from the wall you are painting on. This way just the tips of the brush come into contact with the tape.

Right, don't just throw the paint on either. Start light and get progressively heavier. Since the brush has lots of paint in the beginning and less as you move down you have to adjust your pressure. If it looks like your brush is out of paint, go back over your paint line where you started and pull some paint down again. You may not get any further, but the paint you do have on the wall will be more even. At this point you will use run the brush down beside your first paint stroke to thicken it up, you can also back brush from down to up using the back side of the brush to use up the paint from there. Then you feather a bit. Using the flat of the brush get the paint on the wall a good 4 to 6 inches. It doesn't have to be thick. In fact the reason you call it feathering is because you want it to be thick in the corners and thinner the farther from them you go. 

Now load your brush up again and start about 6 inches above where your last stroke ended. On the second pull down stroke go another 6 inches above that.

Corners where two walls meet a ceiling are a bit trickier and you will just have to practice them on your own. But I will say, The corner is the only place you start with the brush flat on the wall. Place the brush flat on the wall about half an inch from the corner and lightly push the bristles into the corner. Take your time.

If you are cutting two walls and they are both the same colour, just slap the paint right down the middle then flat brush and feather each side. Again, overlap your strokes.

4. Rolling the Primer

Now, take your brush and wrap it up in some plastic. Make it neat and flat. You can leave a brush in plastic with paint on it for weeks if you close it up properly. No air means no dry. You wan't to hang onto your primer brush until you are done with rolling the primer because nothing sucks more than cleaning the brush and then needing it to wipe the paint tin or scrape paint back into the tin from the tray when you are done and you have to clean it again.

Make sure you have a good 10 to 15 mm roller... A good one. You get a crappy roller and you will have a lint filled bumpy wall. No use spending $50 on a tin of paint if you are going to cheap out on the roller. Might as well just get a moss covered log and paint with that. Also make sure you have a handle for your roller handle... get a wood broom handle and cut it down to 3 or 4 feet for walls or leave it long for ceilings. Trust me painting without an extension of any length is a pain in the hand. I have a 2 foot, 4 foot and a 6 footer that extends to 10 feet. I use them all. Your hands will thank you and you get more leverage for putting paint on the wall.

Load up the roller really well. The first time you load it up you might think it is full... It won't be. So load it up good.

Now the pro tip. Don't paint in a W pattern... Start up against one of your corners. You don't have to be right against the wall, keep your end columns an inch or two from the adjacent walls. Also, don't start at the top. Start a bit above half way up the wall and roll up to the ceiling, then down to the floor in one straight line. Like I said, no matter how well you load up the roller the first time you will run out of paint really quickly, so load it up again and go over the first column one more time. Now column 2. Again starting just above half way up the wall leave a 1 inch gap or so between the columns and roll up then down in one long paint column then on the way up veer over the gap you left on the way to the ceiling and bring the centre of the roller all the way to the floor over the gap. Now roll back up and go over to the top of column 2 then back down to the floor going back towards column 1 again. Now on your way up keep veering over to column 1 until you are completely in column 1 then go straight down then back up again veering all the way into column 2... Now for column 3. Again 1 inch gap half way up the wall, all the way down then veering back 1 forward 1 back 2 forward 2... keep going. You won't want to veer back more than 2 or three columns at a time. Once you get going forward 6 or 8 columns you will see why. You want to back roll a bit which gives way better coverage, but you don't want to go past your wet edge or you will get a messy result. The faster you get at painting, the farther back you will be able to go. But don't freakin' speed demon it. Take you time. Slow and steady is better.

You might find that once the roller gets loaded and you get the hang of it, you can actually roll a column and a half with one loading. Once that starts happening for you, you are levelled up. You then can start the same way half way up the wall go up and down, but this time roll half a roller over to a fresh part of the wall and get a column and a half before back rolling.

5. Sanding

When the primer dries, you will sand down the wall with a drywall sanding pad on a pole. You don't have to sand the shit out of it, you only want to run over the surface lightly with the pad to remove any lint or bumps that might have got on there. Trust me. You skip this step and your wall will not be smooth.

6. Cutting the Corners Again.

Now if your primer is all nice you can clean your brush and throw away the dirty tray liner. We are going to cut the corners again with our finish colour. This is the same process as cutting with the primer.

7. Painting the First Coat

You will paint the first coat exactly the same way you did the primer.

8. Sanding

One more time with the sanding. Same as last time.

9. Cutting the Second Coat.

This is your last cutting. Make it count because once you are done this there is no more levelling up till the next room. You shouldn't need to load the brush up as much with paint for this cutting. It is more of a filling in and evening out the paint thing.

10. Painting the Second Coat.

One last time same as the others. You should be a pro by now. No hits on the ceiling, no over rolling onto the baseboards.

11. Cleaning up

If you got a shitload of paint on the tape, once it dries you might want to take a sharp razor and cut along the tape line before peeling it off. If you don't you might pull the paint off the wall. You only have to cut really lightly. Cutting through a couple coats of paint is not a difficult thing to do. When you peel the tape off, do it at a 45 degree angle so you minimize the chance of pulling off paint.

When you wash your bushes make sure you get the paint out really well and then spin them in your palms again. Fight the urge to flatten the bristles. Leave them all troll doll. They will dry better and load up easier the next time you need the brush.

If you have another room to paint, take your roller off the handle by using a plastic shopping bag and wrapping it around it and pulling it off. Then roll up the roller in the bag and tuck the ends into the tube. Again, no air is no dry so a well wrapped roller can last a couple weeks no problem so you can paint from one weekend to the next with the same roller. If you are only going to be a couple days, just roll up the thing in a bag real good right on the handle.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Review of the 2015 Acura TLX

The Good, the Bad and the Push Button.

I recently took my 09 TL into Acura for an oil change and they gave me a brand spankin' new TLX as a loaner. Since I live out of town and they were checking out a couple other things on my car, I got to hang onto it for a few days.

This gave me a bit of time to see what I thought of it. There was some good, there was some bad and there was some I'm not really sure. Overall the car was nice. It had enough power for this class and for their target market. It had the luxury one would expect and more bells and whistles than a Roger Whittaker Holiday album.

I never know if I should start with the good or the bad, so lets start with the push button gear selection. Weird. Well designed as far as useability is concerned, but I can't say I was feelin' it. Neither was my wife.

First, the cup holders can't be covered which is a bit cheep. and I can just imagine how many people will be coming in with gear selector issues due to spilled lattes. It is strange that the only model of TLX you can get an actual gear selector in is the base model.

The second button issue is with the second touch screen instead of actual buttons. Most of what you use it for takes your concentration off the road way too long. For example, to turn on or off the heated seats, you have to use the touch screen to select either driver or passenger heated seat control, which pops up a screen where you have to hit either +/- or touch one of the three level indicators to set your desired temp. Then you have to hit a little X in a small circle to close the screen... In most cars you just reach down and toggle a manual switch to low or high or hit a single button to cycle through high/med/low/off.

The Audio isn't intuitive either, you can't actually do everything associated with your music on the screen that displays your songs etc. The touch screen shows you what song is playing and gives you access to the source of the audio and lets you skip forward or backward. But in order to change playlists, you have to hit a physical button for music which pops up the playlist functionality on the navi screen higher up on the dash, then you have to use the knob for your functionality... It was really disjointed from an interface standpoint.

I'm not a big fan of buttons that don't have feedback.

Now, the doors... If you have a last generation TL, you will find the door arm rests and controls in this car really sad. They are not as sporty, comfortable or luxurious as the TL. They feel cheep.

The plastic wood is really plastic and the leather is not nearly as soft or luxurious as the TL was. For a replacement model of car you would think they would up the game. No one drives with both hands on the wheel all the time, especially on long drives, and this car gives you nowhere to comfortably rest your hand. I kept reaching for a gear shift knob with my right hand but kept hitting buttons which freaked me out... and more than once put me in neutral on the highway. You just can't get your right arm comfortable on the armrest without a gear shift in this car as the armrest is too far back and your forearm dangles off it in an uncomfortable way. The door armrest is no better. I kept feeling like I had to work to keep my arm on it. it kept slipping down towards me. And since there isn't a handle to fondle or wrap you fingers around, the play value on a long trip wasn't there. I love the slightly rubbery inner section of handle on my TL as much as I like the way the underpad on the leather right near it is trimmed and the leather goes from soft to hard. Little things like that give you something to fondle when you are just cruising on a long trip.

One of the other things I didn't like was the back seat headrests. They didn't fold flat into the back seats and stuck up blocking the view out the rear view mirror.

Acura will have to get the shift points sorted on this new 8 odd speed gearbox because if you are trying to maintain a speed between 50 and 60  kph the car wants to be in a way too tall gear and you get bad vibration. This also happens around 80 kph too. I'm sure they will just do a software patch for that. The car has umph. Perhaps the same as the TL given it's lower HP rating but lighter weight. Except, when you launch it doesn't stay in the power band. It takes you right up to redline but torque drops off 2k rpm before that then it pops into the next gear and nearly squawks the tires throwing you into the headrest but very quickly loses torque again... Rinse and repeat. The acceleration is nowhere as smooth as the TL even if it may be faster, the TL feels way nicer and faster because you are constantly in a state of acceleration until you are going way too fast.

What I did like...

The lane assist... Damn near drives the car for you on the highway. You barely notice it doing it's thing to the point where you can enjoy the scenery a bit and not drive off the road. The day was well overcast and the roads I drove had varying quality of lines from nearly new to not so hot. The car handles all of it nicely. There was a couple gentle S curves on the highway where I basically just let the car drive it'self... and it did. Kept us right between the lines around the  curves.

The system has the same feeling as driving in tire ruts on the road. when you start to ride up one side to the lame edge you are gently slid back into the lane. There is no perceptible steering wheel movement when you are just travelling straight and being kept between the lines. When it takes you around a corner, you can feel the steering wheel move.

After 30 min of this, I was convinced that I would be having a self driving car by the time I was old enough to need it.

The verdict as far as I am concerned... I wouldn't upgrade... I would consider it a downgrade and not worth it. But that is me and perhaps my wife and I are not their perfect target market.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

A Design Primer.

I thought I would share a shortlist of books to read if you are serious about getting a foundation in design. These are not your 'ohhh look at the pretty pictures or product' design books but rather a true foundation in understanding design. I know most of
you will have read these, but for those who are not in design, I think this list would help 

Design for the Real World - Victor Papanek
Ways of Seeing - John Berger
Pioneers of Modern Design - Nokolaus Pevsner
The Design of Everyday Things - Donald A. Norman
The Thames and Hudson Encyclopaedia of 20th Centry Design and Designers - Guy Julier
Design since 1945 - Peter Dormer
Art in Modern Culture - Edited by Francis Fraschina and Johathan Harris
How Art Becomes History - Maurice Berger
Twentieth-Century Design - Jonathan M. Woodham
The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology - Edited by Donald Preziosi
Exploring the Ways of Mankind - Goldschmidt
The Prodigious Builders - Bernard Rudolfky

As I said, this is by no means a full list, but it will get you going for sure. I hope this list helps. Some may be hard to find and some are a bit long in the tooth, but are still relative. I think the Victor Papanek is still required reading in most university programs and it is from 1984. Pioneers of Modern Design was first published in 1936 and Ways of Seeing in 1975.

If you have one in your reading list I should have included, Please post it in the comments. I'm always looking for something new to put on my reading list.

Update 10 Oct

I'm adding in a few books on Design Thinking and a couple suggestions from other people.

Design Mangement - Kathryn Best
Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation - Mootee
The New Business of Design - IDCA
Building Design Strategy - Lockwood, Walton
A Pattern Language - Christopher Alexander et al.
The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception - James J. Gibson
I also suggest MISC Magazine which comes out quarterly.
And I just put, Design Driven Innovation by Verganti in my reading list

Thank you Steven Forth and Hilary Cinis