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Status Update 0.0.2

Posted by on 26 November 2011

It has been a couple of months since my initial Status Update. A lot has changed since then, but I couldn’t be happier with the path that starting The Lumber Lab has set me upon. Let me catch you up with some recent happenings.


This time of year we are all busy catching up with family. For me, this quality family time has delayed the final post to wrap up the thermostat series. See this post about my shop, and this one about thermostat types if you need to catch up.

In the middle of this project, I realized there is a lot I want to cover about enclosure types, so stay tuned for some great information.

Now, if you will bear with me, I’d like to share a story about family life.

It recently struck me that I am at a peculiar age. I’m now old enough to truly appreciate how much I don’t know. I’ve been reading more than ever and learning a ton, but at the same time, I see others, some older and some younger, that have accomplished so much. We’ve all heard the phrase “He/She has forgotten more about _______ than you will ever know!”. This came very close to home last weekend.

I always stay at my grandparent’s house during my annual deer hunting trip. The food can’t be beat, and it is a great chance to get into conversation with my grandparents, one on one. This year we talked long into the night while sipping on homemade Brandy slushes (a family holiday tradition).


Among other things, she told me a great story about making clothes from flour sacs during the depression. This struck a cord with me, because until then, I considered the “Maker” crowd to be affluent youth, those not afraid to throw money away on an idea.

This is just not true. It is necessity that is the mother of invention and this forced my grandparents to be “Makers”. Perhaps it was even easier in their time because their parents were “Makers” too. They didn’t have much and didn’t let anything go to waste.

In this day and age, even in the midst of a “Great Recession”, most people still have enough.

An example of this came in the Eco Home magazine I get for FREE from Hanley Wood. Check them out here. They featured a new insulation material made from discarded blue jeans. Jeans in my grandparents day were worn until they’ve fell apart. Then the frayed and worn material would get sown into a quilt.

Learning from the past is a priceless and quick way to gather knowledge. The lessons seem especially important when they come from family stories. These stories connect you to the past and can partially explain you, to yourself. Think about it.

The Take Away

What I learned from the Flour Sac story is that we can take what industry gives us and make what we need. And it is OK to be creative with how you use materials. Why be ashamed that your clothes are made from scraps, they get the job done better than the NEW clothes that are sold with HOLES in them already!

Wood and Electronics

So, does industry still supply us with reusable materials, as the Flour Sac story would imply? That depends.

I think the concept is still very true in the electronics world.

The electronics industry can sell a unit for less than the cost of the discrete parts.

Some of the best sources are toys. For a good example, look at game system controllers. They are a wealth of buttons, sensors, transmitters and receivers, batteries and ergonomically designed enclosures.

Sadly, I cannot say that this reuse concept works as well in the woodworking world.

Offshore factories can build furniture and ship it half way around the world for less than the cost of the plywood it would take to build it. And for the most part, the material they use isn’t worth recycling.

Good Wood

Antiques on the other hand, can be great sources of very good wood. I’ve been working on this antique restoration project for quite some time now and it is nearing completion.


I’ve never worked with nicer Oak and I know that my work has given this piece another hundred years of life.

Learning Arduino

In my post about Embedded Development Environments, I mentioned that when I decided to take the leap, I would jump on the Arduino platform. I finally took that big first step and I couldn’t be happier.

I picked up the Arduino Cookbook first. Sorta like putting the cart before the horse. I got through 100 pages of the book and then pulled the trigger on buying the Arduino Uno development board.

Arduino Uno

I did a post on the electronic suppliers Jameco and Mouser, but I ultimately did not purchase from either of them.

I absolutely knew that I wanted to move beyond the development board and get some electronics circuits embedded into some projects. For that I would need a programmer.

The website with the best documentation for Arduino programmers is Adafruit also has an amazing selection of Arduinos and Adruino compatible products. Their blog is amazing.

I bought the Adafuit kit to put together a parallel programmer, so I can burn Arduino bootloaders.

Parallel Programmer

And I got their ISP serial programmer, so I can reprogram my future projects. (Back to putting the cart before the horse).

AVR ISP programmer

Open Source Hardware

Limor Fried is the founder of Adafruit. I first saw her talking about Open Source Hardware in 2010.

This is an inspiring video about the Open Hardware movement, but there are a couple “strong” words in it.



One of the last slides she shows says “What we make will outlast us”. Isn’t this why we woodwork? To build something that will outlive us? You can do the same by contributing knowledge to the open source movement.

Open Source Hardware Badge

Open Source Woodworking?

In a way, woodworking has become “open source” thanks to the contribution of SketchUp from Google.

This great FREE software is in use by many woodworkers. SketchUp lets you easily make and view 3D designs.

Even if you don’t want to create in SketchUp, Popular Woodworking magazine has built up an impressive SketchUp Library. It is a great source of free woodworking project designs.

Invest in YOUR Capacity

I created The Lumber Lab because I want to contribute to the empowerment of everyday people to create value for themselves and others. If we look in the right places, the raw materials and the information is out there. Some of my  best pieces of lumber have come from pallets.

Serving Fork

There are problem solvers all around us who have recognized that others have the same needs and questions. They are putting forth the effort to document a solution for the benefit of all. I hope to add to this collection of priceless free information.

I’m happiest when I’m learning so I never hesitate to invest in something that will expand my horizon. I’m a big fan of this Oliver Wendell Holmes quote.

The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.

Find books, new or old. Subscribe to websites and magazines, and take the time to thoroughly walk through the information.

Intellectual capacity is something you can never have enough of. And unlike a bigger shop, you cannot be taxed on having a bigger brain. Although, too much reading may leave your brain feeling taxed. Nothing a good night with a Brandy slush can’t cure.

Thanks, Grandma Bonnie.


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