Hello once again everyone. So sorry to have missed a post. Those on my email list got a cryptic message about bad news. Sadly it will stay cryptic here since not everything needs to go on the public internet. If you really want to know contact me privately and I will fill you in.

Suffice it to say, though, that things must go on, and they are doing just that. Despite tragedy, the US election (which might also be tragedy), rain, and Covid, life continues. And over the last two weeks some progress has occurred.

You might recall the heating system water leak in the guest room and the chaos it caused. Recovery continues. The guest room itself is now back in working order, having been fully painted. Here are some photos. Note the complete absence of nearly black paint on the walls.

The first picture shows the carpet reinstalled and the general area where the leak occurred. The next shows the other side of the room and peeks into the attached half bath (which was not repainted… at least not yet). And the third shows Tinkerbelle (front) and Cruzer (back) on their first visit to the reopened space, trying to decide if they approve or not. (Answer: no, they do not approve. Things were changing, and that is never approved.) Skookie declined to appear.

Since those photos were taken the guest bed has been set up, the closet doors rehung, and several boxes unpacked and items moved around. The room is now actually usable (should a guest manage to get here, somehow, during the pandemic) and there is more space in the library as well. All good things.

In addition to that, I am working on the drywall in the hallway linen closet that was damaged in the leak. I had to remove some of it and let everything dry out. I have since hung new sheetrock and started the joint taping process. Sadly it has been years since I did any taping, so I am out of practice, and the space involved here is tiny, so there is no room to work. At my skill level it will take me a couple of weeks to get this done and ready for paint, but it is moving forward.

Anne’s office also suffered water inundation, but has somewhat recovered. The carpet we cut out has been covered with an area rug (or three) and the closet is ready to be put back into working order. I need to finish up the hallway closet repair first, though. More on this whenever I get to it.

This section really ought to be titled No Good Deed Goes Unpunished because getting the CNC working again has been something of a nightmare.

I cannot recall where I left off in the tale. I suspect I’d mentioned that the power switch had failed and I was waiting for the replacement to arrive. I will assume that is the case and carry on from that point.

About two weeks after placing the order for the power switch — and it immediately going missing in transit — Amazon finally decided I could ask for a refund. I did so, and also clarified what should happen if the package magically showed up someday. (Answer: keep it. No return needed as this is an international shipment and they were not going to make me return it. Remember that. Foreshadowing is important.)

In the meantime I’d ordered another switch through a different source — the people that support the machine — and it arrived in a single day. It was substantially more expensive, but at least it was in my hands. So I installed it, crossed my fingers, and powered the CNC up. It seemed fine. Yay!

And (of course) a few days later the switch I’d ordered through Amazon showed up. *sigh* At least we have a backup now, right? (Keep remembering that. It’s more foreshadowing.)

I continued to test the CNC and figure out the various software options. In the process I encountered at least three more issues:

  • The Y axis positive limit switch went wonky and stopped the machine from booting properly. I had to expose that switch and click it a few times to clear the condition it was in to get the machine to boot and re-home correctly again.
  • I changed router bits and inserted the new one as deeply as it would go into the router, thinking that was wise. Turns out it was a bad idea because the machine then hit the Z axis negative limit switch while attempting a cut. Fixing that required only pulling the router bit farther out of the machine, but why that was even possible I have no idea.
  • Finally, the last test cut I attempted this week resulted in this:

See the stair steps in the centre? Those are not supposed to be there. They were only happening when the machine was cutting in one direction, and they were very regular. I assumed they were caused by the software generating bad G-Code (which is the gibberish that the CNC machine actually reads and follows) but that seems not to be the case. I contacted the software people and gave them the file, which they opened up with a G-Code reading website and it looks just fine there. They argue this is something with the machine and provided a couple of suggestions, but no hard pointers. That’s not a surprise given their software supports many different kinds of CNC hardware made by different companies.

And that is where that stands as of Friday morning. I need to figure this out and debug it.

An aside: you might note the two holes in the photo above (in the upper corners) and lack of stair steps in them. This problem only showed up halfway through the test cut I was running, and only on the second toolpath, not on the first. A “toolpath” is a cutting path with a particular set of characteristics. In this test case there were two toolpaths — one for the holes and one for the exterior of the object — and both were part of the same G-Code file. Nothing changed during the run — which is the processing of a single G-Code file in this case — so I have no idea why or how this happened. Yet.

Oh, also, on the day the stair step cuts showed up, Amazon sent me an email telling me to return the power switch or they will charge my credit card for it… sometime in March. Apparently the first rep I’d chatted with didn’t know the system that well. I chatted with another rep, and they promise to refund my money (in March) if I am actually charged for it. I just have to get back in touch after the charge goes through. Yeah, sure. Three months from now I am going to remember to do that for an $18 charge. I suspect I will be paying for that backup power switch after all. No matter. (And that is the payoff for all the foreshadowing above. Exciting, eh?)

Oh… in addition to the term “toolpath” I suppose I should explain “limit switch” for certain readers. A CNC is a machine that holds a router and moves it around over a chunk of material to cut bits away. “CNC” actually stands for Computer Numeric Control, which describes what controls the movement, but doesn’t mention the router portion. And there are other kinds of CNC machines. Some drive water jet cutters, or laser cutters and so on. But the shorter term “CNC” seems to be used to describe things moving a router around. Weird, but true.

Anyway, the router on this machine can be moved in three directions. If you remember your geometry class those are called the X, Y, and Z axes. As the machine is only so big, there are limits on how far it can move in each direction, and there are electrical switches that it bumps into if it tries to go too far. Those switches shut down the motors and stop the router bit from spinning, so no harm is done in such a case. The G-Code that drives the machine might tell it to move the router 247 inches in the positive direction along the X axis, but since the machine is only 18 inches wide, that would cause a problem, you see.

So the “Z axis negative limit switch” is the switch that stops the machine from pushing the router too far down (thus, “negative”) into the workpiece being cut. And the “Y axis positive limit switch” stops the machine from scooting the router carriage off one end of the machine.

If I can get all of this working I will create a video and point this stuff out. For the moment, though, just getting it working is challenge enough.

In the quest to get the garage studio/shop in working order, I have made some small progress. I might have mentioned a gap between the slab that is the garage floor and the slab that is the house floor. I am filling that in with concrete, like this:

It doesn’t look like much, but that is a fresh concrete strip (in two pours, one small on the right, one larger on the left) filling most of the gap. There is some unfilled area remaining off the left side of the photo, but I cannot get to it yet thanks to all the stuff in the way.

On the right side of the photo is the new water heater and the opening through which it was inserted into the utility room where it lives.

The current plan is to finish up some work on the wall of the utility room. I need to patch some holes and put a cover over the large opening, and then prime it all so it is bright white instead of the ugly brown and blue you see on the back wall. Yes, the blue is paint, not tape. Go figure. After that I can move everything around and finish filling the gap between the slabs. As we say in the software industry, a whole lot of yak shaving is involved.

And yes, I know the photo doesn’t do the area or the project justice. I’ll get better ones as the work continues.

On several occasions I’ve mentioned my dissatisfaction with weather forecasts in the Vancouver area. I am currently logging daily forecasts to see how much they vary as the day being forecast approaches, in order to assess whether my complaints are accurate or not. (I still lack enough data to come to a conclusion about that, but thus far it doesn’t look good for Canadian meteorology if any inclement weather is present in the forecast.)

In the process of logging the data, I happened to capture these two events:

The first (on the left if you’re on a big enough screen) shows a bit more of the web page in question, but they are from the same source. And note that source — The Weather Network — which is a relatively large and (in theory, anyway) well respected supplier of weather information. Both photos show the current conditions for the area around our home (called “Riverside East, BC”) and below that the “Short Term Forecast.”

I invite you to look at the current temperature and the forecast high temperature in each case.

  • In the first, the current temperature is 11° C and the forecast high is 10° C.
  • In the second the current temp is 15° C and the forecast high is 14° C.

That’s right, The Weather Network has told me — on at least two occasions, Oct 30 and Nov 4 — that the forecast high temperature for *today* is lower than the current temperature.

How likely are they to get the forecast right for the next seven days if they can’t even get the forecast for *now* right?

Speaking of weather, I took this photo and thought I’d share it:

The combination of the (relatively) low temperature, the rain, and the maple leaf behind the thermometer case feel very Canadian to me.

Finally this week we installed a new rug. We needed something for the living room, and I remembered a specialty rug web site I’d seen a while back. The thing I recalled was silly, but Anne liked it too. One thing lead to another and:

That’s Tinkerbelle (you recognize her by now) modelling the new rug. It has a particular pattern to it. It’s a bit subtle, and it is largely hidden in that photo, so you are forgiven if you don’t recognize it. Maybe this will help:

Cruzer, once again, objects to us moving things around, and conveys that objection by getting in the way to stop it. Here the pattern on the rug is much more obvious. Have you figured it out yet?

If not, the details are available at this link:

That’s right it’s a Star Wars pattern. X-Wing fighters, specifically. We think it is hilarious, but it actually works in the space.

Note: if you want to order that rug (or anything else from Ruggable) contact me first. I will give you a referral and get you a discount. (Full disclosure: we will also get a discount for referring you if we order something else, but we have no plans to do so at this time. I only do this to make things cheaper for you if you are interested.)

Anyway, we think it looks good. With any luck we will get a bunch of art up on the walls in the coming week or two as well.

So there you go, all caught up. It was an eventful two weeks, not even taking everything into account.

Many thanks to all who have reached out to be sure I am OK (I am) and offer their support. It’s very good to have friends.

And now I return you to the eternal election news cycle. Take care, and stay safe!

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.