Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Piano Bar 2: Harpectomy

My friend Josh and I like to play this game we call "good idea bad idea".  It's not really a game so much as it's me proposing a perfectly reasonable if slightly outside-the-box solution for a problem, and Josh rolling his eyes at me and saying "ok, let's play good idea/bad idea".  I think I may have permanently won that game based on this particular adventure.

My previous record was probably removing a motorcycle from a truck bed alone with no ramps by tying it to a porch and driving the truck out from under it.  This particular plan beats that, I think.

Anyway, I had the 600+lb piano, with the 400-450lb cast iron harp in it, more or less ready to remove.  I had removed all of the bolts and giant lag screws and everything else I could get my tools on.  I had 2.5 hours before needing to meet some friend for dinner, and nobody around to A: help, or B: say "Matt, this is a really bad idea".

So I decided I'd use some 1" pvc pipe as rollers to push the piano down my driveway under a tree, and then use an 8000lb capacity come-a-long hooked to a big tree limb to winch the harp up out of the piano.  I honestly should never have even tried to move the piano alone, let alone the rest of this hare-brained scheme.  It had vanishingly small odds of ending well.  But like Han, I don't want to know the odds, so away I went!


And here it is, a massive cast iron structure, outside of its piano home for the first time in over 100 years, hanging from a tree in my front yard:

And the remarkably un-destroyed piano:

Seriously, this had NO right working out as well as it did.  I even managed to lower the harp safely onto a dolly and roll it all back into the garage in time for dinner.  I'm very pleased with progress so far, and I'm excited to start laying out the structure of what comes next, and working on the refinishing.  Some of the wood in this piano is really beautiful, under the severely deteriorated finish.  There's some really neat burled stuff, and inlays, and all kinds of cool details, so as that part of the project slowly comes along, it will be really fun to see it develop.  There are also a lot of really interesting chromed steel and cast brass and bronze parts inside that I want to reuse as parts of the bar, so while the disassembly has gone pleasantly fast, the slower but more creative re-assembly phase is going to be a lot of fun.

Piano Bar! Get it?

One of the big reasons I wanted to finish up that dust containment system (which is working great by the way), is because we were about to embark on a pretty exciting and ambitious project.  We wanted to get our hands on a beat up old upright "cabinet grand" style piano, gut it, and build it into a bar for our house.  After a lot of craigslist scouring, we finally found the right piano for the right price (free!).

It's a 1909 Story and Clark.  Here are the pictures from the craigslist ad:

As you can see, it's a cool old piano.  It's in rough shape cosmetically, but it's pretty much all there structurally. It weighs a solid 600+ lbs, so we borrowed a cousin's trailer (thanks Brian!) and managed to entrap a friend (thanks Jim!) into coming with us to load it up.  A good deal of winching and a lot of tiedowns later, it was on the road.  The age of the thing leads to interesting thoughts.  I mean, I wonder if the guys who built this thing over 100 years ago ever imagined it doing 70mph down the highway strapped to the back of a beat up pickup truck...

Anyway, after another spate of grunting and heaving, we managed to get it off the trailer into the garage.  More or less immediately we started disassembling it.  All the removable parts need to come off for cleaning and refinishing, and all the guts need to come out to make space for booze and other bar items.  The first big time challenge was removing the strings.  The amount of tension stored in them is astronomical, so in order to stay safe, they had to come out before we messed with any of the real structure of the piano.  There are a LOT of strings in a piano.  Fortunately the tuning pegs are 1/4" square drive, so a small 1/4" drive socket stuck backwards in my drill made quick work of de-tensioning them.

Here are some initial dis assembly pictures:

By this point we had a lot of the trim and removable wood parts removed, the hammer rack out, and all of the strings and tuning pegs removed as well.  The next big step is to remove the "harp", the enormous cast iron piece bolted to the wooden sound board.  As I said earlier, the whole piano weighs north of 600lbs, and the harp makes up at least 400-450lbs of that.  The other issue is that when a piano like this is constructed, it appears that the harp is bolted to the soundboard, and then the rest of the piano is largely built around it.  So removing the harp was always going to be an adventure, as you will see in the next post.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Project dust containment

As you may have noticed from prior posts, I do a fair number of messy, dirty, dusty projects in my garage.  Unfortunately, our laundry is also in the garage, as is all of my hockey gear, and a bunch of other stuff that I don't love getting covered in metal dust, saw dust, oil mist, or any of the other various messes I tend to create.

Sibyl and I also have some significant projects coming up, so I felt like now was a good time to address these problems.

I took a page from my mold remediation experience, and decided what I needed was basically an easy to set up and remove clean air pressurized containment barrier.  I also have to remember that I'm in a rental house, so I can't tear it up too much.  I stopped in at home depot and picked up some poly sheeting, a couple of adhesive zippers, some string, eye hooks, an HVAC air filter, and some 1/2" pvc.

I attached the poly sheeting all along the ceiling, put zippers at the edges and corner, and used the pvc and string to set it up so I could roll the sheeting up like a big shade.  Then in one of the ends I taped the air filter, and then stuck a bunch of velcro on it, and on a box fan I keep in the garage.  That way I can pressurize the clean side of the barrier with filtered air, so that no dust or fumes pass through all the leaks.

Here are a bunch of pictures:

The working side:

The clean side:

Fan and filter:

And with the walls rolled up:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Autoturret Phase 3

Ok, so phase 2 was pretty successful, but to be honest, I haven't played with those airsoft guns in a while, and I forgot how much they hurt.  There was a bit of a safety issue with taking that particular track much further.  As a result, I switched over to a water gun!  Much more fun, and a lot less dangerous.  Except for the risk to my electronics...

Anyway, here are some pics of the new, updated water autoturret.  Note that the whole assembly now HANGS from the pan servo, so that any drips or leaks don't get on the electronics.  This is a great design consideration that I saw on several other water-based sentry guns.

And here's a sweet video of the system in action!  There are still a lot of bugs to work out, but it's really coming along.


My friend Jim moved to Austin the other day, and brough along a non-running 80s or 90s honda scooter.  Well, this afternoon I finally got a chance to go over it a bit.  It has a lot of potential!

Hooked up a bunch of wires, pulled the battery out of my truck to crank it, and jumped the starter solenoid with a screwdriver, and we have Fire!

Needed a little bit of an exhaust to protect the valves and my ears (and my relationship with my neighbors)

Overall, for not much time invested it's in surprisingly good shape.  Rides like a Dream!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Autoturret phase 2: It's Alive!

Got my webcam sorted out, and after a few other software and hardware hurdles I have a more-or-less functional airsoft sentry gun.  It needs a good deal more calibration, but it's good enough to hit big targets.  And I forgot how much airsoft pellets hurt!

Here I am working out a few bugs with my target stick and the gun in the background:

Here are a couple of videos of the system in action:

video 1 - this is the first test.  It misses right a lot, but it tracks and fires.

video 2 - it hit me most of the time in this video

video 3 - it hits the balloons about 3 times, but misses right a lot.  It also doesn't break the balloons.  I have some higher-powered gas that might give let it pop them.

So, there's still a fair amount of fiddling and tuning and calibrating left to do, but I am super happy with where things stand after just 3 evenings of work.  I also have already learned a lot about jMyron and video capture and processing in Processing, which was a big goal for this project.  So far so good!

Monday, July 8, 2013

autoturret phase 1 - continued

Got my new servos in today, so I spent some time building up a better platform:

Trigger servo

pan and tilt servos, and frame

and a new VIDEO with full pan, tilt, and fire.  Next up is to get the arduino and computer to control it.

Friday, July 5, 2013

airsoft auto-turret phase 1

So I stumbled across http://projectsentrygun.rudolphlabs.com/home the other day while browsing Hackaday.com.  I decided that the software is now too easy to use for me to put it off any longer.  So I spent a couple hours prototyping and learning about how all the mechanics are going to go together.

My first whack at it used an old drum bass pedal as a pivot and some small servos I had lying around, hooked onto an old airsoft pistol. At some point I might switch to a super soaker, but for now I kind of like the airsoft gun.  It's all hooked up to the receiver on one of my crashed model airplanes, since I'm really just working some of the kinks out of the mechanical parts.  Anyway, this is what I have so far:

And here's a video of the tilt and fire mechanisms in operation:

As you can see, the fire servo is a bit weak, wobbly, and susceptible to vibration, which makes it bump-fire in roughly 3 round bursts.  I ordered a few larger servos for the next iteration, so hopefully I can take care of that issue.

Anyway, watch this space for progress...