House of Hacks

Saturday, October 14, 2017

How to replace a dishwasher


Need to replace a dishwasher? In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley shows how to install a Bosch 500 series dishwasher after first removing the existing dishwasher. Knowing how to remove and replace a dishwasher is useful information for a home owner. It’s not intimidating once you see how easy they are to install under a counter top.

Bosch 500 series dishwashers on Amazon (Associates link)

Here at House of Hacks we do tutorials, project overviews, tool reviews and more related to making things around the home and shop. Generally this involves wood and metal working, electronics, photography and other similar things. If this sounds interesting to you, you may subscribe on YouTube.

Here’s the most recent video.

For a written transcript, go to How to replace a dishwasher

All music by Kevin MacLeod at and under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: Hot Swing
Incidental: Beach Bum, Guiton Sketch, Happy Alley and Pump Sting


Need to replace an old dishwasher with a new one?

Today at the House of Hacks, we're going to do exactly that!


For the last six months or so, every once in a while we'd come home and the dishwasher would have leaked. It was a random occurrence. It only happened on rare occasions.

It was pretty frustrating to find. I spent quite a bit of time trying to track it down. I actually went so far as to pull the dishwasher out from the cabinet and put it up on 2 x 4s for a week and we ran it that way to try to isolate where it was leaking. And of course, in that time it never leaked and my wife finally got frustrated with having it out in the middle of the kitchen and asked me to put it back.

Last weekend we came home from running errands and found it had leaked again. It had finished shortly before we got home and I thought maybe it was still wet where it had been leaking and so I immediately pulled it out from the cupboard. I couldn't find any leaks. I was able though to trace the water back from where it was wet on the floor and where it wasn't wet on the floor to kind of get the general region and did some more investigation. I pulled a flashlight out and I did find the tell tale signs of leaking water where you have that white, dried, crustiness from dried water that had been leaking and had since dried. And in tracking it down I found a seam in the tub that had some discoloration in it and that was right where the water was coming out on the other side. And so obviously there's rust through in that seam and there's really no repairing that kind of thing from a practical standpoint. I could kind of hack it with some epoxy or silicone gel, but that's just sort of a stop gap measure and eventually I'm going to have to replace the dishwasher. So I decided to go ahead and do that.

To do this project, I think it's going to require three tools. I may be wrong, but thinking through the project, I think there's three things we're going to need. There's a screwdriver that we'll need to disconnect it from the counter top and also, if there's electrical connections that have screws, they're probably going to be Philips. I think that's the only thing we need Philips for.

The water inlet is probably a compression fitting which will use a 5/8ths inch open end wrench. If it's not a compression fitting, it's probably a hose clamp which again will use the screwdriver.

And finally, I believe the drain has a spring clamp that we'll remove with pliers.

I think that's all we need. Three tools.

If any more are required, when I get into it, I'll talk about that in the process of needing them.

The way this model dishwasher is held in is there's two screws on the top that hold it to the counter top and there's a dust panel on the bottom by the floor that needs to come off so we can move it around.

A total of four screws to pull out and then it should just be able to slide right out.

Let's get to it.

[Turn off the water]

[Turn off the power]

[Loosen dust cover]

[Remove screws]

[Double check there's no power]

[Disconnect drain]

[but put down a towel first]

[Disconnect water supply]

[Access electrical]

[Disconnect wires]

[Remove old machine]

So you saw with the old dishwasher, it had a built in junction box in the bottom front corner that the electrical ran into.

The new one has a separate junction box that is supposed to be mounted away from the dishwasher and then it has this cord that has an end that plugs into the dishwasher.

From a mechanical standpoint, this is a lot easier because I can... I'll have to cut off the old knarly ends and get some new wire here, but there are some screw terminals in there that I'll just screw right into. It'll be quick and easy. But I don't have a good place to mount this. The way the cupboards are designed, the closest place to mount this where it's going to be accessible is further away than the length of this cord. And so, it's just going to float around in the back there.

Let's get this hooked up.

[Trim off old wire]

[Strip insulation]

[Affix strain relief]

[Attach wire to terminals]

[Tighten screws]

[Put on cover]

The water hook up has been a little bit more challenging than I expected.

The dishwasher has a 3/4" MPT fitting on the back of it and my plumbing has a 3/8" flex pipe. So it didn't work directly in there obviously. So I had to go buy a fitting specially for this project that is a 3/4" MPT fitting to a 3/8" compression fitting.

I'm going to put this on and first of all I need to cut off the old compression fitting on the piping because it can't be used again.

[Install fitting]

[Connect water supply line]

OK, now we're going to connect the drain.

This comes from the dishwasher and it has a section for either 1/2" or 3/4" drain pipe.

This pipe is 3/4" so we're going to put the hose clamp on the 3/4" section and push this in there until it's good and seated.

And that's I think as far as it's going to go.

It seems like it should go a little bit further... but maybe not.

Now we put the hose clamp on.

And tighten it down.

I must say I really like the old hose clamp where it was a spring clamp.

It was so much more convenient.

[Install the mounting clips]

[Push the dishwasher under the counter]

OK, now we get the joy of leveling it.

It seems to be in there OK.

All the water and drain stuff, electrical seems good.

It's pretty well centered.

Now it just needs to get leveled and needs to get lifted up actually.

I've got probably almost an inch gap here at the top.

But that's what the leveler feet are for.

OK, to turn this, turn the feet on the right and left to level it side to side.

And to level it front to back, there's a screw right here in the middle you turn to get the front and back level.

[Screw in mounting screws]

[Attach dust panel]

OK. Well, I finally got it done and in.

That was a lot more work than I expected.

The last dishwasher that I'd taken out was one I had also installed 10 years ago or so probably. Maybe 12 years ago.

It was really pretty simple. It was just straight forward: take out the old, put in the new and it was done.

This one there was "some assembly required" as they say.

I had to pick up that part from Home Depot.

I had to wire in things, it was just a little bit more involved.

It was just more work.

It took a lot longer than I expected.

And it took more tools than I expected.

So the final tools:

Scissors to open packaging.

Level to level it.

Tube cutter to cut off the old compression fitting that I didn't need.

A couple adjustable wrenches to level it.

A Philips and a straight screwdriver.

Wire cutters to trim up the wiring.

And a box knife to trim the insulation.

And a 5/8ths inch wrench to tighten up the water connection.

And pliers to put in those little clips. The clips on this particular dishwasher you can put either on the top or on the sides so you had to install those. Use pliers to do that.

That was it. All in all, not a tough job. It just took about 4 hours to do, and that included having to film and setup.

So that slowed it down a little bit. Probably a good 3 hours to do this even if I hadn't been filming.

So that's it for this project.

Thanks for joining me on our creative journey.

Until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required.

Fun is!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

How to replace a water shut off valve


Do you need to replace a water shut off valve? In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley shows how to fix a shut off valve under a sink.

Other plumbing tips.

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Watch my most recent video.

For a written transcript, go to How to make a rustic table top

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at


Do you have a crusty, frozen, broken shut-off valve that needs to be replaced?

Today at the House of Hacks, we're going to do just that.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers.

Harley here.

Today we're going to remove this old shut-off valve that doesn't work anymore and replace it a bright, shiny new one.

To do this should required just a few minimal tools.

First off, I've turned off the water and drained all the taps so there should be minimal water in the system.

However, there will still be a little residual water that will drain out when we cut into the pipe.

So, I have got a pile of towels to soak up any water that does come out.

We have a couple wrenches we will need.

This is a 15/16th inch open end wrench and this is a 5/8th inch open end wrench.

And we have a tubing cutter that we will use to remove the old one.

And we have our new valve.

Now these valves have compression fittings on them so they just slide on and then you tighten down the nut.

However, once a pipe has had a compression fitting on it, you don't want to put a compression fitting back on the pipe in that same location.

So on the old pipe, we are going to just cut it off since even if we did try to remove it and take off the compression fitting...

First of all it is going to be really difficult and second of all, even it we got it off, we would not be able to use that section of pipe.

So we are just going to cut it off.

It does have plastic lines going into it, so we will remove those plastic lines because those can be reused.

If you have plastic or braided lines going into the output side of the shut off valves, then those can be taken off and reused.

But if you have got hard, solid lines going in there, then again, those need to be cut off as well.

For this particular project, I will be removing the two plastic lines and then cutting off the valve from the main input line.

Put down a towel before opening up the lines to catch any water that might still be in them.

Then a 5/8" wrench loosens the connections until they can be removed by hand.

A small tubing cutter makes quick work of removing the old valve assembly.

Let the towel wick up enough water from the pipe that it won't make a mess when putting the new valve assembly on.

A cleaning brush makes sure we have a good connection to help prevent any leaks at the joint.

Put on the compression nut and then the compression ring.

Fit the valve assembly and make sure it's oriented the way that works best for your environment.

Thread the compression nut onto the valve and tighten it down.

It should be good and tight but you don't need to strong arm it.

Make sure the valves are closed and turn on the main water.

OK. That was a bit exciting.

I made sure before I turned the water on to have the valves all turned off because I have not hooked up the inputs on this yet. Or the outputs.

And I turned on the water because I wanted to make sure that this main input here was tight and did not have any leaks on it.

What I failed to do was turn off the faucet up above and it was turned on in the middle position.

So when I turned the water on, the cold water side got pressurized, went through the faucet, out the hot water side and came out through the unconnected connection.

So, lesson learned: remember, before you turn the water on, to turn off the faucet here if everything is not tightened up and buttoned up down below.

But the good news is we do not have any leaks down here.

And a good way to test that is to use a piece of tissue paper.

Tissue paper soaks up water really easily and just the tiniest drop will cause it to swell up and also change color.

So it is real obvious if there is a tiny leak, even if you can not see it or feel it, it shows up on the tissue paper real well.

And if I run this around here and get it up in the crack of that seal and run it around the top, it's completely, perfectly dry.

There is no change in it whatsoever.

So that tells me that this first connection has a good seal on it.

So let us continue with the last two connections.

OK. A lot of times plastic line on the end here has triangular shaped end on it that is designed to kind of go inside the pipe and provide a good seal on it.

This one does not though.

This one is just straight pipe and then has a compression fitting on it.

You should not really reuse compression fittings once they've been used once.

So I am going to cut this off and then use the new fitting that came with this to connect this up.

And in this case, for the other end, we have braided line, and that has a rubber seal on it, so it can just thread right back on.

And on this rubber stuff, you do not need to really torque it down.

You just need to get it snug.

And again the tissue paper test.

And everything is nice and dry.

And now we have everything connected down below and the valves turned on and we can see we have water on the cold side and water on the hot side, so everything seems to be good.

I didn't see any leaks with the tissue paper.

I like to leave it sit for a couple hours and then test again with the tissue paper because sometimes you have a little bit of seepage that you want to double check a couple hours later just to make sure that there is no leakage.

But I do not think there is going to be a problem with this.

It is rare that I have problems with this side of the plumbing.

Usually when I have leakage problems it is on drain sides, with p-traps, not on pressure sides, interestingly enough.

I am not sure why that is, but that has been my experience.

I believe everyone has a God-given creative spark and this involves making things with a mechanical or technical bent, and sometimes repairing them.

If this sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to check out the rest of the channel and see if this is something you are interested in, and if it is, go ahead and subscribe.

Click the bell notification icon and YouTube will let you know next time I have a video uploaded.

Until then, go make something.

Perfection's not required.

Fun is!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

How to make a rustic table top


Have some reclaimed wood? Need a rustic table top? In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley shows a simple way to make a DIY rustic table top using reclaimed wood. A nice thing about doing a rustic table top build is you don’t have to be terribly precise, which allows you to move quickly. The reclaimed wood table top made in this video was done in a couple hours. It’s primary purpose is for product photography, so it doesn’t need legs or finish. If you wanted to use this in a living space, you’d want to spend a bit more time on it to finish the edges, put a sealer on it and craft some legs.

Subscribe for more DIY videos.

Watch my most recent video.

For a written transcript, go to How to make a rustic table top

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at


Today at the House of Hacks we're going to make a rustic table top that can be used for a variety of purposes.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers.

Harley here.

A couple months ago, I helped by buddy Rich install a new backdrop wall in the studio that used some reclaimed wood.

You may have seen this in a couple of the videos last month.

Well, he wanted to create a table top to do product shoots with using some of this old reclaimed wood so it kind of matched the wood backdrop.

So today we're going to take some of that left over wood and combine it with some wood I scavanged from a built-in cabinet that was in the studio space before we tore it apart and combine that together to make this new table top.

In our case we want the table top to be portable so we're not going to put any legs or anything on it and just set it on available surfaces when we need to set it up.

But if you want to do something like this, you could use it as a end table or a coffee table or something of that nature.

Let's get started.
I first vacuumed all the loose dirt, sawdust and miscellaneous things off the fence wood.

Then I sorted the boards into an order that looked nice.

Next I glued and nailed each board onto the plywood substrate.

I trimmed the uneven edges off with a circular saw.

And gave it a final vacuuming to get all the sawdust off.

So this is what the table looks like setup in the studio.

And here's a test product shot using it.

If you're going to use this idea in a living space, you'd probably want to finish it off with some sort of Verathane or something just to seal it in.

Keep the splinters out of your hands. That sort of thing.

And you probably also want to put a edge banding around it to just trim it off and finish it.

For the purposes of this project, we don't need to do any of that.

The way it is is plenty sufficient because it'll never be in an image and you won't see it.

Until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required.

Fun is!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

How to convert fluorescent tubes to LEDs using ballast bypass (Part 2)


Want to see how to convert fluorescent tubes to LEDs while bypassing the ballast? In a previous video, Harley showed a very easy but expensive way to convert fluorescent tubes to LED tubes. In this video, Harley shows a more involved, but typically less expensive, way to convert a fluorescent fixture to use LEDs involving a ballast bypass.

Ballast bypass, also called direct wired, involves removing the ballast and using LED tubes that run off of line voltage rather than the high-voltage from the ballast. Typically these bulbs are less expensive because they don’t have to deal with the higher voltage used by fluorescent tubes. This video gives instructions for how to wire the fixture to use these bulbs and provides a wiring diagram.

Convert fluorescent tubes to LEDs with the ballast (Part 1)

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Watch my most recent video.

For a written transcript, go to How to convert fluorescent tubes to LEDs using ballast bypass (Part 2)

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at
Incidental: "Acid Trumpet" by Kevin MacLeod at


Today at the House of Hacks, we're going to go from this to this.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers.

Harley here.

In a previous video, I explained how to convert 8' long fluorescent fixtures from fluorescent tubes to LED lights in a very quick and easy way.

However, this way was pretty expensive. It involved just getting some ready-made 8' LED lights and those things are really pricey. For some reason, the 8' LED tube replacements are a whole lot more expensive than 2 4' LED replacement tubes. The 8' tube replacement are $60 each whereas I picked up a 4 pack of 4' ones for $24. I have no idea why. And they've been this way for quite a while. I picked up two pair last year I think it was, and they were $60 and I just picked up two pair yesterday and they're still $60. Same price. It hasn't moved at all. And it's pretty much the same price whether you buy it online or retail like I did. There's usually a few dollars off buying online but of course you have shipping and handling costs added to it so it ends up being a wash.

It's a real quick way to do it because you don't need to replace ballast, you don't need to rewire anything, you just plug them in in replacement of the existing bulbs. So, it's really quick. It's more expensive getting the bulbs that are designed for ballast.

However, in the 4' market you can buy tubes that work either with ballast or without ballast. And I have a fixture that needs some work on it. The ballast is making noise and the tubes are flickering and so I wanted to replace them with LEDs.

But because the ballast is making noise, I want to do a ballast bypass and remove the ballast altogether. And so I'm going to be demonstrating that in today's video. It is a little bit more work because you have to take the ballast out and rewire things a little bit, but it's not a whole lot more work and you do remove one more component that could possibly fail on you. So let's get started.

First remove the old bulbs.
It'd probably be a good idea to turn off the power before doing this.
Yeah, do as I say, not as I do.

Now take the fixture down. This will vary depending on how it's installed.
In my case, it's just sitting between the joists on some 2x4s.

Next disconnect the mains power.
Be sure to have the power turned off.
You don't want to be working with live power at this point.

On the bench, the fixture needs to be opened up.
This will vary depending on the type of lamp you have.
In my case, it's just a matter of removing two nuts.

And then the case just opens up.

Here we see where the sockets are connected to the ballast.
Since we're removing the ballast, all these connectors get taken apart.
We need to do this on both sides of the fixture.

And we need to remove the mains wire from the ballast input.

Once all the electrial connections are separated, we can physically remove the ballast.
In this case, there are two screws with nuts on them.
Other designs may have a single sheet metal screw on one side and a slot on the other.

Now we need a short piece of wire to run from the center where the mains are connected to one end of the fixture.
I'm using some scrap 14/2 TPS cable I had in the parts bin.
If you have to buy some, 3 feet should be plenty.

Now I prepare all the ends by stripping off about 3/4" of insulation from each wire and twisting the strands so they don't fray as easily.

I also strip the insulation from the 14/2 cable.

Now comes the most technical part of this project.
Here we see each socket has two wires coming out of it.
On one end of the fixture, we want to connect one wire from each socket to the white wire and the other one to the black wire.

It's probably easiest to see this in a pictoral diagram.
Hit pause on the video if you need to study this.

Because I have four sockets on this fixture, I used some pigtails to keep from having a huge number of wires all in one wire nut.
When it's all put together, it looks like this.

The sockets on the other end of the fixture don't need any connection.
I just put wire nuts over the ends of the wires to keep them from potentially shorting anything out.
And then zip tied them together to keep them neat and tidy.

Finally I stripped the insulation back from the other end of the 14/2 cable.

We can see here, I'm not using the copper ground from the new cable, but the existing ground that goes to the fixture.

And now it's a matter of reassembling the fixture.

And reconnecting the mains.
Again, make sure the power is off before doing this!

Reinstall the fixture.
In my case it's just a matter of dropping it back into place between the joists.

Finally, install the bulbs.
These particular bulbs have only one end that connects to the sockets with power, so if they don't work the first time, turn the bulbs around end for end.

Turn on the power and enjoy your new lights!

So give me a thumbs up if you found that helpful. I really appreciate it.

And I really thank you for joining me on this continuing creative journey that we're on.

Until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required.

Fun is!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

What I learned doing a video every day in August (VEDA)


During the month of August, Harley uploaded a video every day to learn more about making videos. In this final video, he talks about some of the things he learned.

Organizing with Simple Solutions

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Watch my most recent video.

For a written transcript, go to What I learned doing a video every day in August (VEDA)


[Starting soon]


OK. It's almost 8 o'clock. I think we'll just kind of get this show started. I'm not sure how many people are on, but...

Welcome to this first live stream for House of Hacks.

I'm Harley.

Tonight I want to go over a little bit about what I learned doing a video every day here at House of Hacks.

Afterwards I will answer any questions, if there are any questions from anybody in the audience. So you can just leave that in the chat... type in the chat if you have any questions.

(Change over to my notes.)

I had a couple goals starting out August doing, and the whole reason for doing VEDA this month was...

One, I wanted to expand the content that I produce. In the past I've traditionally done project videos and tutorials and tool reviews and that's about it. I want to expand out and talk a little bit more about the values of House of Hacks, the philosophy, things of that nature. If you're familiar with Roberto Blake, I was inspired a little bit by his Creative Thoughts series that he does. So I called it Maker Musings for this series and just wanted to explain a little bit about why I do House of Hacks and some of my own personal operating philosophy behind it. With the thought that that would become a regular series on the channel.

The second reason that I wanted to do VEDA was to develop some of my own processes around making videos. In the past I've been pretty inconsistent in producing videos and getting them posted. I wanted to step up my game a little bit and be more consistent and increase the frequency. To do that, I need to develop some systems around producing videos.

And so that was the two fold reasons for being involved in VEDA this year.

Another thing that I learned... So I'll get into some of those details a little later...

One of the things I learned about myself through this process was I can get a lot more done in the evenings than I sometimes thought I could. At the beginning of the month I had great plans of batching up videos and having them posted days in advance and be able to have this rigorous, well defined system. And that worked for about 2 weeks and then life got in the way and things kind of fell apart. The last 2 weeks I was basically shooting and editing and uploading a video every night. That got to be pretty intense with having a full time job during the day, coming home and doing that, yeah, I saw a lot of 2am's the last two weeks. I worked through it, got it done, but it wasn't a terribly pleasant experience but I did learn that I could get a lot done in the evenings if I really set my mind to it.

One thing I did cut out though was I didn't get any exercise, my normal workout routine was completely eliminated, which, at the end of two weeks I'm really starting to feel that and need to get back into my regular exercise routines.

I did find though during those first couple weeks that batching really does help with efficiency. There's a lot of people that have talked about batching to improve efficiency while making videos and they're absolutely right. It does really help. You have to have a lot of pre-planning going in before hand though so that when you sit down to edit you have everything you need and you know where you're going with everything. It does take a lot more pre-planning than I'm personally used to, but if I can do it, it does help quite a bit.

It really helped too at the beginning of the month because I went to CVX Live which was a three day conference for YouTube content creators. If I hadn't gotten the batches done beforehand, there's no way I could have done videos and the conference. There just wasn't time. So, batching does really help.

With the content I normally do, I can see batching working well for tutorials where I can do a bunch of tutorials all at once and then edit them and upload them over time. I'm not quite sure how, or see how batching could work doing my more... project videos that I do where I'm presenting a project. That kind of seems like I don't know, I'd have to do multiple projects at the same time or something. It doesn't really seem like that'd work out. I could see if I do one project and release multiple videos how it might fit in with that. But again, it's something I need to explore because it does work.

Another thing that I found, if I shoot less and have less video, then it makes editing go faster because I just have less to choose from. In the past I've done, a lot of times, I'll do a whole presentation multiple times and then pick the parts out of each presentation that I liked and that takes a lot of time in editing to go through and figure out what pieces of which parts of the presentations to pull out to make a final whole. I found it works a lot better to just start the camera rolling and go through the presentation once and do each tiny section, sometimes down to a sentence at a time, do those one at a time and then it makes it much easier to edit into one thing.

Looking at the analytics, with what I found related to the content, going back to the Maker Musings things. I found that really wasn't very popular. Well, let me take that back. It was either a love/hate relationship for viewers. Some viewers, I got more positive comments on the Maker Musings than any other series of videos I've done. I had a lot of comments. A lot of positive comments on those. But I also, on those same videos, had the most number of subscribers unsubscribe. Normally I run about between 30 and 40 subscribers a month that drop off on average. This month I had over 60 subscribers leave. And all of them were in that two week period where I was doing the more philosophical/values related videos. So, some people just unsubscribe because of those but I also got a lot of positive comments. So, I don't think I'm going to make that a regular content on the channel, but probably still do occasional ones here and there where I get inspired, but I won't go out of my way to plan and make that into a series. Which was one of my original thoughts, that I might do that.

Things that the analytics say the viewers did like were Photography. The Photography videos that I did had higher than average views and watch time over the month as compared to all the other videos I did.

Another thing that I did, in some of my tool tip videos, I added a little bit of goofiness at the very beginning. That really surprised me how well that did. The audience retention scores for those videos where I added that goofiness was probably twice my average audience retention. So, I need to be more goofy I guess is what I'm finding out. I kind of need to relax a little bit and be more of a clown which goes against my nature a little bit. It's really out of my comfort zone on that, but it seems to really help and people seem to enjoy that. In fact there was one part of one video that I had more than 100% watch time which indicates people going back and rewatching it. That was really surprising for me.

Talked about everything on that list and those points. I think that's everything I wanted to present today. I don't know if there's any questions. Nope. Nothing coming up in the live chat.

It does say there are two people watching. I want to say "thanks for joining me." I'm thinking one of them might be Christy at Organizing Simple Solutions based on one of the comments that was left earlier. Just want to say "thanks."

Christy has a great series of videos on her channel called "ABCs of organizing" or something to that effect. There are 26 videos about organizing various aspects of your life. And you can see probably over here, that's a great place that I need to do some organization. I've got a pile of metal. I've got a "zone" for metal, but it's not organized.

I think that's about it for tonight.

Thanks for joining me.

And until the next video, go make something.

Perfection's not required.

Fun is!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hands on: Compare Hole saws to Hole cutters


Is a Hole Saw or Hole Cutter better for your project? In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley puts his hands on each type and compares hole saws to hole cutters.

Hole cutter (Amazon affiliate)

Hole saws (Amazon affiliate)

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For a written transcript, go to Hands on: Compare Hole saws to Hole cutters

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at


Hole saw versus circle cutter.

Which is best for your project?

Today we're going to talk about the pros and cons of each.

Today at the House of Hacks.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers.

Harley here.

Today at the House of Hacks, we're going to talk about hole saws and circle cutters and the pros and cons of each and which is going to be best for your project.

But first I want to thank all the subscribers for joining me on a regular basis for this creative journey that we're on.

And if you haven't subscribed and you're interested in shop projects and reviews of tools and tips and tricks and things of that nature, for woodworking, metalworking, electronics, photography, things of that nature, I encourage you to check out the channel and subscribe.

So a hole saw looks like this and it's basically a saw that's wrapped around in a circle. It has teeth on it just like a normal saw does and a center drill bit in the middle to keep it in one place and get it started.

A circle cutter is very similar in that it has a center bit to start the cut but it differs in that it has a bar and an adjustable cutter bit that can be placed anywhere along this bar.

So right away you can see two of the principle differences between the two.

These come in fixed sizes. You have to have one saw for each size that you want to cut. Whereas these are infinitely adjustable from the minimum size to the maximum size for the particular piece that you have. And there's pros and cons of both.

With a hole saw, you don't have to worry about measuring. You just grab the one for the size that you need and chuck it up and you're ready to go.

With the hole cutter, you need to adjust the size, if it's not already set, to what you need for that particular hole. They're just a little bit more fiddly for this one, rather than this one.

But this one, you have to have an exact size for the exact hole that you need, whereas this one can be adjusted to any size you might happen to need.

And there's a couple things that fall out from that difference.

With hole saws, you have to have one for each size that you need. If you have a whole set, it's going to take up more storage space just because there's physically more of these to store.

Whereas the hole cutter, this is all you need for cutting anything from about, I think the minimum size on this is about 3/4" all the way up to a 6" hole. So this fits in your tool bag a lot better, a lot less to carry, a lot less weight, a lot less space.

The other thing that's a fall out from the two basic design differences is the hole saw, when it gets dull, you have all these teeth that need to be sharpened. It's probably easier to just throw it away and get a new one that's sharp than to try to sharpen this.

Whereas with the hole cutter, it's basically just a square piece of high speed steel that you can put on a grinder and get a new edge on. Also, you can buy the tips separately and they're replaceable. You just pull out a setscrew and the old one
pops out and the new one can pop in.

Another thing the design drives is whether you can use it handheld or not.

With the hole saw, because you have pressure going all the way around the hole evenly, you easily use a hand drill with these.

These have a tendency to catch, so if you're using a hand drill, you need to be careful that there's nothing for your hand to slam into if the drill catches and the torque spins your hand around.

I have a friend that has a metal plate in the side of his hand because that exact thing happened to him. One of these hole saws caught, it drove his hand into a pole or something that was right next to the hole he was drilling and he ended up having to have some orthopedic surgery done on his hand.

So you do need to be careful with these if you're doing hand held, but it can be done.

With these, because the pressure is always on one edge, you've got wobble if you're trying to do it hand held, and I don't think it's possible to use a hand held drill on these. You have to use a drill press when cutting with these.

So those are the major pros and cons that I'm aware of between a hole saw and a hole cutter.

If you have any others that you've run into that you like one or the other for some other reason than what I've talked about, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

In the description below, I've left links to Amazon for both hole saw systems and hole cutter systems. And if you're interested in either one, you can go check those out.

Thanks for joining me again here at House of Hacks for this continuing creative journey that we're on.

Until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required.

Fun is!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hands on: Aoyue 937+ soldering station review


Inexpensive temperature controlled soldering stations are a great upgrade to an entry-level pencil soldering iron. In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley does a quick review of his Aoyue 937+ soldering station that he’s used for a number of years. The Aoyue 937+ is a good type of soldering iron for circuit boards and what he uses for electronics.

Aoyue 937+ on Amazon (Affiliate link)

Soldering stations on Amazon (Affiliate link)

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Coming soon.

Monday, August 28, 2017

How to use an outlet tester


When working on electrical outlets, a must have tool is the outlet tester. In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley show how to use one of these inexpensive tools to test receptacles for proper power and ground wiring. They are also an easy way to test an outlet to see if the power is off prior to working on the wall plug.

A list of 110 receptacle testers from different manufacturers (Affiliate link)

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If you do anything with 110 volt receptacles or outlets and wiring them, you need one of these. We're going to talk about what it is and how to use it, today at the House of Hacks.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers.

Harley here.

Wiring 110 volt receptacles or outlets are pretty simple and straight-forward for the average DIYer. There's only three wires to connect and they're all color coded. So as long as the circuit was installed correctly originally, replacing the outlet is really trivial.

But when you do replace an outlet, you do want to make sure you use one of these tools. They're designed to tell you if things are wired properly or if you have safety issues. They're really inexpensive and you can pick them up on Amazon for less than $5. I'll leave a link to a bunch of them down in the description below.

To use one of these, all you do is you just plug it in. It has three lights on it that light up and, depending on what order the lights are lit and which ones are lit, it'll tell you the status of the outlet.

The best condition is that it's lit up as correct and you're good to go.

There are a number of problem that may occur. The first one is open ground. This is where the ground wire is not connected. The ground wire is typically green or copper without any insulation on it at all and in this case you need to make sure it's connected and make sure it's properly connected to ground on the other end.

The next one is open neutral. This means the white wire is not connected for some reason. You need to go in there and trace the white wire and find out where the disconnect is.

The next one is open hot. This means the black wire is not connected properly. In this case nothing will work when you plug something into it because there is no power actually reaching the outlet.

The last two are safety concerns because if you plug something into the outlet with these configurations then you may have power exposed to the user in ways that are unsafe. Which is why one of these tools is really important to use to make sure everything is good.

The first of these two critical ones is hot neutral reversed. And this means the black wire and the white wire are backwards. You just need to take the plug off and reverse those two wires and you should be good to go.

And the last one is hot ground reversal. This means that the hot wire and the ground are backwards which are the black and the green wires or the plain copper one, depending on the wire that's used. And in that case, just these two need to be switched around.

That covers all the error cases and also the good case. So, make sure you use one of these anytime you're wiring up an outlet just to make sure everything's safe for your users.

And until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required. Fun is!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hands on: Canon 77D first impressions and review


Harley reviews the Canon 77D and gives his first impressions after having his hands on it for five months. This includes a brief comparison between the Canon 77D and 80D. This is a subjective review and not an in-depth scientific analysis and comparison of the 77D vs 80D.

Canon 77D unboxing

What entry level DSLR should I buy?

How to take your first picture

Absolute Beginners Guide to Removable Lens Cameras

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After five months of owning it, today at the House of Hacks I want to give a quick hands-on review of the Canon 77D and give my first impressions of it.


Hi Makers, Builders and Photographers. Harley here.

As I mentioned in the intro, about five months ago I got a new Canon 77D on the first day that it came out. I did an unboxing of that. If you want to see what it looks like coming out of the box, you can take a look at the card here or link down in the description below.

I won't be actually showing the camera today since I'm using it to record. But I do want to talk about some of the pros and cons that I found with it. Things that I've like and things I didn't like and also do a little bit of comparison between the 77D and the 80D in terms of features, because they're pretty similar in a lot of respects.

There's a lot of similarities between the 77D, the T7i and the 80D. It really does fall right in between the two of them, both price wise and feature wise. So I want to talk a little bit about that today. I don't want to compare it to the T7i, it's really pretty close in a lot of ways. Really the only difference is it has a few more buttons and it has an information panel on the top of the camera rather than completely relying on the LCD on the back. So, it's a little bit more "pro" but not as "pro" as the 80D.

So the real comparison I wanted to do today is with the 80D. All the numbers I'm throwing out here today are as of August 2017 and are for "body only." I'm not including any lens kits because those can kind of change the prices somewhat. So it's just the "body only" I'm going to be using for price comparison on.

The 77D is about $300 less expensive than the 80D. The interesting thing is that both have the same sensor in them. The 77D does have a newer computer in it and with that newer computer come some additional functionality. The 77D's ISO does have one more stop than the 80D and I think this is primarily because the processor in it can do more noise reduction and things of this nature. Like I said, the sensor is the same, so it's purely a difference in the way it can process the information with the faster computer.

That said, the 77D does have one less stop on the shutter speed. It only goes to 1/4000th of a second whereas the 80D goes to 1/8000th of a second. Also, the 80D's sync speed is 1/250th of a second instead of 1/200th of a second for the 77D.

The 77D's viewfinder, that you look through the back on, covers less surface area of the sensor than the 80D. The 80D covers 100% whereas the 77D only covers [95%]. So it works well for focusing and composition, but it doesn't give you the full range all the way out to the outer edges.

On drive mode, the 77D only shoots 6 frames per second as compared to the 80D's 7 frames per second. So it's one frame a second less but on the other hand the faster processor allows it to save that as fast as it shoots it whereas the 80D has a buffer that fills up eventually. So you can shoot all day on drive mode with the 77D whereas the 80D eventually will fill up and will stop taking pictures. This is only if you're shooting JPEG. If you're shooting RAW, they'll both fill up right around 25 frames.

If audio is a concern for you, the 77D does not have a headphone jack to monitor audio with whereas the 80D does.

The 77D also has a lower battery life than the 80D when taking stills. I'm not sure how it compares when shooting video.

The 80D is designed as a lower level pro camera, so it does have some additional features that aren't found on the 77D. Notably, it has an optional battery grip so you can get more battery life out of it. It has weather sealing so you don't have to worry about rain quite so much. It has more buttons to get direct access to certain features and it has more features built into the firmware for finer control of some of the features like auto-focus and micro-adjustments on lenses.

Some of the things I like about the 77D personally, coming from having shot with a 5D mark II previously... It has much better battery life than the 5D did. It does have less battery life than the 80D, but compared to the 5D it's much, much better on batteries. On the 5D I have a system where I can plug the camera into line power so I don't have to run off batteries because it runs through batteries so quickly. The 77D, I haven't had that problem with. I've always run batteries. I am thinking about getting an adapter, just on general principles, but I don't feel like I have a pressing need for it.

Another feature that I really, really like is when you hit the 4 gigabyte maximum file size, the 5D just stops recording. So you have no warning when it's run out of file space and stopped recording. It just stops. Whereas the 77D when it fills up a file, it just automatically creates a new file and continues going. Now it does only do this for 30 minutes. There is a 29 minute, 59 second cut-off that's mandated by some European legal standard somewhere. I'm not quite sure of all the details so this is a common limitation across all DSLR and mirrorless cameras that sell on the international markets. It's not a technical limitation. It's strictly to conform to a certain regulations. And the 77D does give you audible and visual feedback when it hits that limit. It displays a message on the screen and also the mirror pops up so you can actually hear it when it stops recording.

The 77D has an articulating screen and I love this feature. On the 5D mark II, the screen is fixed on the back and it was always a pain to try to focus and frame, particularly shooting solo with my videos. With the articulating screen on the 77D, it's a wonderful, wonderful feature.

And speaking of the screen, it's touch sensitive. This is really cool because you can direct touch on it to activate features and change options on it rather than have to use buttons and scrolling through menus. I really love the touch screen. Also, you can use it to zoom on your photos and move, pan around, as you're reviewing photos. It's awesome.

One cool feature that was kind of a surprise, kind of a sleeper feature, is if you don't have the battery in, the viewfinder as you're looking through it is really dim. It's some sort of mechanical overlay system where if the battery's not physically in and the door's not shut, then the viewfinder display is kind of a grey. You can kind of see through it, but it's very definite that there's a problem there. Just kind of a reminder of "oh, I don't have a battery in," I need to put one in and get the door closed.

Another cool feature about this that's common to I think all new cameras, is the wi-fi connectivity. You can control it from the phone or from a tablet, something like that, as long as you have an app for it, and this is a really cool feature. I need to use it more. I kind of forget about it at times and it would really make things a lot easier I think.

The 77D also has Bluetooth and NFC communications. I've personally never used those yet.

And finally, I want to talk a little bit about the auto-focus. It is really smooth. It works really, really well. I had it out shooting some video, just outside playing around, and as the subject moved through the frame, it would follow it. And if the subject moved out of frame and a new subject came into frame, it would just kind of nicely glide to the new subject and pick it up. Auto-focus worked really well, particularly compared to the old 5D system which was known for not being great on it's auto-focus.

And the other thing about the auto-focus is it has face detection. And that face detection is spot on. It works really, really, really well.

Ok, let's talk about the things I don't like. And this is a much, much smaller list.

The first thing really isn't the fault of the camera so much as the lens. Talking about auto-focus. I'm using a 24-105 L lens and it is really loud when it focuses. It makes the audio that's recorded on the camera completely unusable. You can use it for syncing to, but you definitely wouldn't want to use it in your video if auto focus is being used. Of course, you can put it in manual focus and you wouldn't have that issue.

Another thing that I really don't like about it is the CR2 format for this camera is unique to this camera. And so my older software that I use requires an upgrade and in order to get the upgrade, I have to pay money and you know... it'd be nice if, and this is kind of a pet peeve of mine is... file formats should stay the same. Let's design a file format so that raw files can be saved and not have to have new formats internally every time a new sensor is developed. I'm not quite sure why they can't come up with a file format that's parameterized such that when a new sensor comes out, just the parameters can change but the format can stay the same and that give you backward compatibility on all the old software. I mean I understand from possibly a business standpoint, but from an end user satisfaction standpoint, it's really, really annoying that files are not forwardly compatible.

OK. I'll get off my soapbox now.

OK. And the last thing that is kind of a downer about this, and again this is almost a soapbox kind of issue, is I'm not sure why, in this day and age, Canon can't put 4K video in all their SLRs. I mean we have point and shoots with 4K video. Our phones have 4K video in them. Why can't, on a $1000 camera, we have 4K video?

In fact earlier today I saw and was handling a Panasonic GH5 and the owner had the same lens on it that I have right now on my Canon, the 24-105 L glass. He was using an adapter to use that glass with that body. So, I don't know, I may be looking at other camera systems for my next body. The Fuji X-T20 has adapters that will work with the Canon lenses, so I'm going to be seriously looking at that. One of the reasons I got this camera was because I'm heavily invested in the Canon ecosystem and I didn't want to change systems at this point in time. But given that Canon's reticence about getting into 4K and the extra flexibility you have shooting 4K, my next camera purchase may not be a Canon even though I may still continue to use Canon lenses.

And I want to talk about two other points someone else has brought up in a review that I read.

One is that the LCD screen can be kind of dim if you're out in bright sunlight. Personally, I've never shot out in bright sunlight, so I haven't really run into this problem. But it is a consideration if you're thinking about one of these cameras.

And second, while this sensor was a big step up from some of Canon's previous offerings, it's still not as good as some of the competition. Particularly Sony and Fuji, they're using the same sensor, are just really killing the rest of the competition in terms of dynamic range of the sensor. And Canon just doesn't quite live up to the competition in this regard. So if you're shooting in high-dynamic range situations, where you want to capture a lot of detail over a broad spectrum, this may not necessarily be the camera for you.

One thing that was a big surprise for me was I use highlight alert. And I'm used to going into them menu system and turning this on. And I went through the menu system when I got this camera and I couldn't find it. I was kind of surprised that it wasn't there because my old XTi has highlight alert on it. So I was surprised it wasn't included as an option. But then I started reading through the manual about it and it is an option... well... it's not an option... it's always on. You can't turn it off. Which for me is just fine. I never want it turned off. But if highlight alert is something that you find distracting, just be aware you can't turn it off. It's always on.

And that's pretty much it for this quick review.

Thanks for joining me on this creative journey that we're all on. I hope you enjoyed this and find this review helpful.

Until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required. Fun is!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

8 tips for soldering copper pipe


Copper pipe soldering is pretty straight forward with some guidance. In this episode of the House of Hacks, Harley presents 8 tips for soldering copper pipe.

How to solder (Previous video)

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Coming soon.

Friday, August 25, 2017

8 tips for soldering electronics


Electronics soldering is pretty straight forward with some guidance. In this episode of the House of Hacks, Harley presents 8 tips for soldering electronics.

How to solder (Previous video)

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

How to solder


Basic soldering is a core skill for many tasks in the workshop. In this House of Hacks soldering tutorial, Harley presents the principles of soldering and then shows how to solder any metal to metal connection including how to solder wires with an iron and plumbing using a torch with flux.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

9 tips for shop organization


How's your workshop organized? In this episode of the House of Hacks, Harley shows 9 tips for shop organization. Some of these are pretty basic, but sometimes the simple, tried and true techniques are great ways to organize your workshop.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

16 quick tips for shop safety


Safety is an important consideration in a workshop. In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley presents 16 tips for shop safety.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Six tips to more accurate measurements in the workshop


Accurate measuring in the workshop can be critical to the success of a project. In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley presents six tips on how to make more accurate measurements.

Amazon associates list containing items discussed: Pencil sharpener, Mechanical pencil, Retractable Sharpie, X-Acto knife, Caliper

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ten photography tips and tricks for better photos


Wondering how to improve your photos? Here are 10 photography tips and tricks to help take your photos to the next level. In this episode of House of Hacks, Harley presents ten tips to better photos.

A great big THANK YOU to my good friend Rich at Studio o2o for permission to use this material. Go to the o2o Creative channel, subscribe and leave a comment saying House of Hacks sent you.

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Ten tips for better photography, today at the House of Hacks.


Hi Makers, Builders and Photographers. Harley here.

Today we're going to be covering ten tips for better photography. I want to give a great big shout out to my buddy Rich. He graciously allowed me to use his material that he put together and has presented a number of times.

He and I have talked about doing a collaborative YouTube channel together called "o2o Creative." If you're interested in getting in on the ground floor on that, go check it out. There's a card up here, or a link down in the description. Go subscribe if you want to get in on the very ground floor. I think there's only one video out there. If you don't mind go out there and put a comment on that video saying "Harley at House of Hacks sent you."

So today we're going to be covering the ten tips. Let's get into it.

Tip 1: Get to know your camera

Knowing your camera is really critical to being able to make great photos. I know it sounds really boring and really tedious but reading your user manual is a great place to start. You don't really have to sit down in one sitting and read the whole thing, but just, every night as you're watching TV, flip through it and scan through the chapters. Have your camera in hand and just practice the settings that you're reading about. Really learn your camera so when you need to go take a picture, you know exactly what it can do. What controls do what. And how to make adjustment to different settings on it to meet the need for that particular photo.

There's a number of important settings that you want to be familiar with. Exposure modes are probably one of the primary ones. White balance is another important one. You want to know how to adjust all your exposure settings, your f/stop, your shutter speed, your ISO, things of that nature. Some of these are fairly basic. Once you're able to do that, you can then make pictures like this.

This is an interesting thing where there's a mix of color temperatures with white balance. The model here was lit up with a tungsten light and the white balance was set to tungsten. Now this was close to evening and there was already some great blues going on in the sky but pushing the white balance to tungsten with daylight in the background really accentuated those blues and really caused the whole feel of the setting to cool down. And you get this great dynamic contrast between the bride in white, really lit up nicely and the deep blues in the background just kind of accenting her skin tones and her dress.

And here's a great example of using Tv mode, one of the shutter speed controls, to do some... to do a blue shot. This photo was taken with a long exposure. Not terribly long, but it was probably on the order of 1/4 second or so. The photographer kept the word "taxi" in the same place of the frame as the shutter closed. And this gave the blue to everything except the word "taxi."

So when you know your settings, when you know how to control your camera, you can get some really cool shots like these.

Tip 2: change your perspective

We all walk around all day and see the world from anywhere about 5 feet to 6 feet high, depending on how tall we are. But we're used to seeing everything from this perspective. One of the great things with photography is you can move around. So by moving around you can get a new perspective and give your viewers something they don't normally see.

There's really two ways to do this. You can either get up high or you can get down low. But in any case you want to get off eye level.

Now here we have a photo where the photographer has gotten up on a step stool and is looking down on his model. This is in conjunction with a wide-angle lens really gives a unique perspective to this image. This is obviously not good for every photo, but it is appropriate for some situations.

And here we have a photo taken from a balcony of a street scene. Again it's not a perspective you'd normally see and it allows you to see more of the umbrella here than you'd normally would and it kind of makes the person in the photo anonymous.

And conversely, here's a shot where the photographer was sitting on the street and again using a wide-angle lens to really accentuate the great lines on this old classic car.

Tip #3: shoot multiple ways

When we're using our camera, so often we get in the mode of shooting everything in landscape where everything is a horizontal format. So change that up. Shoot some things horizontal. Some things vertical. And tip somethings.

Digital film is cheap and so don't be afraid of framing the same subject in different ways for different purposes. Just mix things up, experiment and see what works for a particular shot.

Here we have shot of a motorcyclist get airborne. It's a horizontal and you can really see a lot of the surrounding. It gives you a good sense of where he is in his environment. And here's the same motorcyclist on a different jump but he's about the same distance off the ground but the photographer has gone vertical and has lowered themselves down in the frame significantly to really make the motorcyclist look like they're up a whole lot higher than the previous shot, but they're really about the same.

So again, changing your perspective can really change the whole feel of the photo.

And here we have it at an angle. This is just a construction sidewalk in the middle of downtown but changing the angle up just kind of gives it a whole different perspective.

Tip #4:Wait for the moment

Sometimes you just want to compose your background and wait for your subject to come into frame. Patience pays and don't rush. Eventually you'll get the shot you want. Here's a couple shots where the photographer just waited for the moment to happen.

The first one are a couple brothers that were in a wild life preserve. They'd been rescued and were growing up in captivity and they were just kind of playing in the water. And they had this one goto move where they're putting their mouths together as they're playing around wrestling. And the photographer realized that they kept coming back to this one move. So he just setup his shot and waited for them to do what they were doing on a regular basis. And eventually he got this shot.

And here it was just a matter of waiting for the bee to enter frame until it was in the place where the photographer wanted it.

And one more time, who knows how many people passed through this frame until there was one person in exactly the right spot for the photographer to get.

So this was a staged photo shoot and this was a real live grandfather and grandson as models. And we had a bunch of images of a staged setting and eventually they just kind of loosened up and this is just a real life natural interaction with the two as they had finally relaxed and started having fun. So sometimes it's just a matter of doing a lot of images until your models relax and you can get a great image.

Tip #5: it's all in the eyes

So we as humans really connect to the eyes of people in images. And there's two things that really help us do that. One is catch lights, and the other is to focus on the eye that's closest to the camera. Ideally you try to get both eyes so they're in the same focal plane with the camera, so they're both in focus, but if their heads are tilted one way or the other, you'll have one eye that's in front of the other. And you want to focus on the one that's closest to the camera. Particularly if you're shooting large apertures, low numbers, where you may have a very limited depth of field. In that case you really want to be sure that your front eye's got the focus.

And then catch lights are really important for giving life to the eyes. In fact sometimes if you don't have catch lights you might want to think about photoshopping some in just to brighten the eyes up a little bit and give some life and give some interest to them.

Here's a cute one with a baby. You can see the square softbox that was used to light up his face but also gave catch lights to the eyes. It really makes them pop.

In this case, the model was down at street level and the photographer was standing on a street bench looking down at her. He had her look up to use the sky as catch lights. This model has incredibly blue eyes as it is and then the sky just really reinforced them.

Tip #6: don't be afraid to experiment

Digital "film" is cheap. One card holds hundreds and hundreds of pictures. So don't be afraid to take a lot of pictures. But the secret is to only show the ones that work. So you may take a 100 photos, you may take a 150 or 200 photos but there may be one that's a real good keeper.

I think it was Ansel Adams that said that if you get one great photo in a year, you're doing really good. Well, he was working with film, we've got digital, so we can take a lot more pictures. Hopefully we can get more than one a year. But the principle still holds. Only show your best work. Do a lot of experimentation, but only let people see what really catches their attention.

So this image took quite a while to get everything just right. We had to get the timing right on the shutter so you had just the right amount of blur in the lights. If it was too long there were too many lights and it just became white. Too short and the lights didn't streak enough. So there was that to get the lights right. And then there was also experimentation to get the exposure right. So the lights didn't blow out but you still had enough of the background ambient coming in. And finally there's also a little bit of patience to wait until the sky got to just the right color blue for the exposure that was being used.

So this is putting a number of things together. Knowing your camera and having patience. And experimenting.

Here the photographer couldn't see what he was taking a picture of. He just stuck the camera out the window in drive mode and took a whole bunch of pictures as he moved the camera around. And one of them happened to be pretty good here. But there were also a lot of images of the ground and the sky and the side of the plane.

And here the photographer went underwater to get a completely different feel. The water changes the light temperature as it absorbs different frequencies at different rates and you just really get a different feel when you're shooting underwater as opposed to through air.

Tip #7: don't use the flash in conventional ways

Most people use flash in low light situations and don't use flash when there's plenty of light. But there's times when if you go against this conventional wisdom you can really improve your photos. There may be times when you use flash during the day to bring up the shadows and there's other times when you may want to avoid using flash and just use ambient light just to get the right feel, the right mood, and rely on long exposures and high ISO. Particularly on newer cameras where high ISO is not quite the problem it used to be.

So in this image, it's hard to tell if there's a flash, but there is one in order to brighten up the kids faces on the sled. If a flash wasn't used, then in order to get the same exposure on the faces, the snow would be completely blown out and conversely, if you didn't blow out the snow, the faces would be pretty dark. So the flash kind of helps bring balance between the darker areas of their faces and super bright areas with the snow.

Here we're using the flash to balance daylight. We're using... it's basically a two light setup where you've got the sun in the background acting as a rim hair light and the couple would then be in shadow. Using a flash on the front brightens their faces and give you a real nice exposure.

And here's a great example of using no flash at night. Here the only light in this was from the flame in order to really give you that nice orange glow on the person's face. If a flash had been used, you'd just completely ruin the ambience here.

And here we've got a photo that's got a combination again. The people in the background that are blurred out are in full sun. The model holding the baby is actually underneath a diffuser and has a flash to bring her exposure up to match what's going on in the background. If you didn't have the diffuser, she'd have real hard light on her since this was about noon and the diffuser kind of really softens the sunlight and the flash brings up exposure in order to balance out the whole scene.

Tip #8: compose on the thirds

There's a number of rules of composition and one of the most common, one of the most well known, is the rule of thirds. And what this means is you divide your view screen up in to thirds both horizontally and vertically. Kind of like a tic-tac-toe grid. And then those lines become where you put important items. On the intersections of those lines you put super important items. It just kind of brings symmetry to the whole image. The eyes just want to naturally follow those lines.

There's some other rules that you can learn about but this is one of the most common and one of the most easy to use.

Here we have an image of a bird with the tic-tac-toe grid lines on screen, so you can see how it works out. You can see the bird's shoulder is right on the intersection of the rules of thirds and you can see the bird is pretty much centered on the right third line. This kind of gives you a little bit of tension in the photo and overall improves the composition.

Here the model is centered in the image but notice that her eyes, what you're most naturally drawn to, are on the top third line.

And here we have two thirds going on. You've got the first third line is approximately where the subject's hand is coming down through the frame. But the top third and the right third lines intersect right where the words "Holy Bible" are and this really draws your eyes right to that point. Plus that's the item that's in focus.

Tip #9: watch the background

So when you're shooting a subject, make sure that you have what's called "peace" around the subject. Just before you take a photo, scan around their face, around their head, and make sure that there's nothing coming out of their head, going into their head that doesn't naturally belong there. There should just be some white space going all the way around to set them off from the background and give them what's called "peace."

You can also blur the background by using a large aperture. This is an aperture with a low number. This will give you a shallow depth of field. The subject can be in focus and the background can blur out. Another way you can blur them out is to get them away from the background so there's quite a bit of distance. That'll help blur the background. Also, using a longer lens, a higher millimeter reading on your lens will also give you a reduced depth of field. So if you combine all those together, you can really blur out the background quite effectively. And this kind of really separates the subject in focus from your background.

Here's a photo at the shooting range. You notice the model in front that's in focus has empty space around her where you just have that goldish, dried grass colored background that really focuses your eye on her in addition to the fact that she's in focus.

You notice how the other subjects in the background are kind of bunched up together and there's not peace around them. But in this case, they're blurred, they're in the background, we don't really care about the peace around them, it's really around the one that's in focus that we care about.

Here's an example of a couple kids. This is on a busy city street but combination of long focal length and large aperture just blurred out the background. You can't tell that there's people and cars in the background and the bluriness just causes the subject to pop out and be the real focus of the image.

And here's a fun photo. Again notice there's peace all the way around the two people that are center stage. Even between themselves, there's white space. And you can see the bluriness, in this case it's not the background but rather the foreground with the hands in front clapping. They're blurry, you can't them other than just being aware that they're there.

Tip #10: Always be learning

Always strive to elevate your craft. As you continue in your photographic journey, always be learning. There's seminars to take. There's web pages you can read. There's video channels you can subscribe to on YouTube. There's podcasts. Get involved with a local photography group. There's all kinds of ways that you can be involved in learning more about photography.

I hope you found those ten tips helpful.

And thanks for joining me on our creative journey.

Until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required. Fun is!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

What is the Maker Manifesto? Part 3: Participate, Support, Change


The Maker Movement Manifesto is a book that Harley recently ran across that presents 9 points important to makers and the maker movement. In this episode of Maker Musings on the House of Hacks, Harley gives his first impressions of the last three points in the manifesto: Participate, Support, Change.

The Maker Manifesto by Mark Hatch (Affiliate link)

Sample chapter (PDF)

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For a written transcript, go to What is the Maker Manifesto? Part 3: Participate, Support, Change

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at


Coming soon.

Friday, August 18, 2017

What is the Maker Manifesto? Part 2: Learn, Tool up, Play


The Maker Movement Manifesto is a book that Harley recently ran across that presents 9 points important to makers and the maker movement. In this episode of Maker Musings on the House of Hacks, Harley gives his first impressions of the second three points in the manifesto: Learn, Tool up, Play.

The Maker Manifesto by Mark Hatch (Affiliate link)

Sample chapter (PDF)

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For a written transcript, go to What is the Maker Manifesto? Part 2: Learn, Tool up, Play

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at


Coming soon.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

What is the Maker Manifesto? Part 1: Make, Share, Give


The Maker Movement Manifesto is a book that Harley recently ran across that presents 9 points important to makers and the maker movement. In this episode of Maker Musings on the House of Hacks, Harley gives his first impressions of the first three points in the manifesto: Make, Share, Give.

The Maker Manifesto by Mark Hatch (Affiliate link)

Sample chapter (PDF)

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For a written transcript, go to What is the Maker Manifesto? (Part 1)

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at


Today at the House of Hacks we're going to finish up the Maker Musings series for August with the first of three videos talking about the Maker Manifesto.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers. Harley here.

Today I want to start a three part series on the Maker Manifesto. This is a book I recently came across by Mark Hatch. In full disclosure I haven't read the book. I've read a synopsis of the book and I've read a sample chapter of the book and it does sound kind of interesting. I have put it on my reading list to go ahead and read the whole thing. The sample chapter was pretty well written and had some interesting points to make. So I do want to read the book.

But I do want to go over the nine points that he's identified as the manifesto for makers. His perspective is from a makers space perspective. He's heavily influenced and involved in the maker space movement and this is the manifesto he's put together specifically for that environment.

I want to go through it. It had some interesting points. The next three days, there's nine points in total, for three days I want to go over three points each day and just kind of talk about them and give a first impression as I read it. He also had a synopsis for each word and I want to go over those just so you have a definition for what he's talking about and if it sounds interesting to you.

If you have any comments, any reactions to anything I say or anything he says, leave them in the comments below. I'd love to hear them and have a discussion about it.

The first three points are: Make, Share and Give.

Make says: Making is fundamental to what it means to be human. We must make, create and express ourselves to feel whole. There is something unique about making physical things. These things are like little pieces of us and seem to embody portions of our souls.

Now this is kind of interesting. I'm not quite sure what he means about that first sentence where he's talking about "making is fundamental to what it means to be human." I'm going to interpret that from my perspective. I talked about this a little bit last week where I talked about "why make" and how I believe that we're made in God's image and God is a creative God and He's put a portion of His creativity in each one of us. I would say that making doesn't make us human. It's not the act of making that makes us human. But rather it's the fact that we're human and we make. We make because we're human, not we make to make us human. If that makes sense. That's kind of a subtle distinction but one that I think is kind of important from my belief system because of how I believe that God did create us in His image.

The next word is Share and the definition he has for that is: Sharing what you have made and what you know about making with others is the method by which a maker's feeling of wholeness is achieved. You cannot make and not share.

Now this is kind of interesting because it's a large part of why I started House of Hacks. A lot of people have poured into my life in educating me and encouraging me and inspiring me and I want to do the same thing to inspire, educate and encourage others. So this channel is one of the ways I want to do that. I really agree with sharing is something that I think is important for us as makers to do.

Give: There are few things more selfless and satisfying than giving away something you have made. The act of making puts a small piece of you in the object. Giving that to someone else is like giving someone a small piece of yourself. Such things are often the most cherished items we possess.

Now this is interesting because give and share are closely related. He makes the statement that "the act of making puts a small piece of you in the object." To some degree I agree with this in that who we are as humans I think kind of is manifest or revealed by what we make.

Again going back to God and creation. We look around and see so much beauty and intricacy in creation, I think a lot of that is, or all of that, is because God is an intricate and creative God and His substance is manifest... It's not that the making is Him, but rather that because He is beautiful, because He is intricate, He therefore makes beautiful and intricate things.

I think the same thing holds true for us. If we look at art, I think part of our emotion, part of our soul, is revealed through what we make, whether it's art or other objects. A lot of it comes from design I think in the whole how we make things.

Those are the first three items in the Maker Manifesto: Make, Share and Give. I'd love to hear your comments down below if you have any reactions to what I've said or what he says, or if you've heard of this before, that'd be interesting. I just ran across this a few weeks ago.

So that's it for today. Until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required. Fun is!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Don't compare yourself to others / Only compare yourself with yourself


It's easy to look around and compare yourself to other people. It's particularly easy for people to make things to compare their ability, productivity and creativity to other people in their field of endeavor. In this episode of Makers Musing, Harley and Diane talk about this dangerous place that leads to unhappiness and dissatisfaction. And they give hints about how to only compare yourself to your past self to find happiness and success.

The mentioned Phlearn article.

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For a written transcript, go to Don't compare yourself to others / Only compare yourself with yourself

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at


Coming soon.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How to overcome ignorance


We are all ignorant of things. There are many things we don’t know. When working on a project, many times we need to overcome our ignorance to continue. In this episode of Makers Musings, Harley and Diane discuss some strategies to gain knowledge when we run up to its limits and overcome ignorance so we can continue to make forward progress on our projects.

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For a written transcript, go to How to overcome ignorance

Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at


Coming soon.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Perfection vs Good enough


“Good is the enemy of great.” vs “Good enough is good enough.” Two schools of thought about perfection, good enough and quality when making things. In today’s episode of Maker Musings at the House of Hacks, Harley is joined by his wife Diane as they talk about these two competing schools of thought. One school takes the perspective that we settle for good enough and fail to strive for perfect. The other takes the perspective that perfection is unattainable and so we should accept good enough. Both have their pros and cons and today’s discussion involves the dynamic tension between the two.

Roberto Blake talking about defining quality: What is QUALITY Content?!

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Music under Creative Commons License By Attribution 3.0.
Intro/Exit: "Hot Swing" by Kevin MacLeod at


Today at the House of Hacks, we're going to talk about "perfection" vs "good enough."


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-it-yourselfers.

I'm Harley, your host, and this is my lovely wife, Diane, she's joining me today for this episode of Makers Musings.

In the past several episodes I've been talking about the reasons for House of Hacks. I've talked about the name, why I chose "House of Hacks." I talked about some of the different reasons I'm doing House of Hacks: to inspire, to educate and to encourage makers. And I've talked about some of the other philosophies with House of Hacks.

Today I want to talk about the last closing statement where I say "Perfection's not required. Fun is!" And so I just want to talk about "perfection" vs "good enough" today.

So, basically there's two schools of thought. Either someone approaches the issue with the idea that "good is the enemy of perfection" or the flip side is "done is better than perfect."

Yeah, I think these have been popularized by two people. I think Jim Collins in his book "Good to Great" is the one that kind of has reinvigorated the idea of "good is the enemy of great." It has a long history but I think he's kind of the one of the ones who's brought it to the fore in recent years.

And the other school of thought again has been around for quite a while but it's been recently re-popularized by Mark Zuckerberg with Facebook fame, where Facebook is constantly iterating on getting things done rather than focusing on being perfect.

I think there's these two things both have their pros and their cons.

The first school of thought is really trying to get away from the problem that comes up with complacency. Where you're stuck in a rut and you just aren't focusing on improving or getting better. The emphasis there is on perfection because being "good enough" isn't good enough in the long term. You can get stuck and not continue to grow and be overcome by your competitors in the business world, for example, where Jim Collins is applying the principles.

On the other hand, the problem with focusing on perfection is there's... you can never get finished. Right. Nothing is ever perfect and so if you strive for perfection you never finish anything because you can always see a way to improve.

And so that's where the second school of thought tries to kind of counter balance that and say "You know, you don't need to be perfect. You just need to get it done." And so they're trying to counter balance going too far the other direction with perfectionism.

I know a lot of people have struggled with being perfect and not wanting to release things if they're not perfect or not letting someone see something if they don't feel like it's done. So these two things are kind of in dynamic tension, I think. If you focus on one to the exclusion of the other you can really run into problems.

I can really see how having to be perfect is a massive detrimental wall, brick wall, to actually accomplishing things because there have been times in my life when I've been learning how to paint or learning how to play a musical instrument and I just couldn't get it right and have given up. One instance, I was painting a flower and I looked at the flower and even though the flower on the piece of paper was pretty, it was colorful, it had a lots of contrast in it, it wasn't even close to the real thing. I told myself I am never going to be able to paint anything that is that beautiful and I haven't painted anything since. The idea of having to be "perfect" can really, really cause people to never accomplish anything.

But on the flip side of that I've also experienced the idea that having to get something done just so that it is completely finished has been frustrating to me because, from my perspective, if I'm doing something, if I'm being creative for somebody else's benefit, I want my creativity to bless them. I want it to be good enough to bless them. That tension that I have between having to be perfect and having to be good enough to bless somebody, I find balance when I let go of having to be perfect and having to be done and just say "have I done my best?"

Yeah, I think it's important to realize that we're on a journey. And because we're on a journey, we're never going to be perfect because there's always something new to learn, to improve and to get better at. I think remembering things are always in process, both us and our abilities, is a way to realize that we never really can be perfect.

One thing that I heard somebody mention, I don't remember where it was, they mentioned to release something as an "alpha" product. So we kind of set an expectation that "hey, this isn't really finished yet, it's a work in progress." It was somebody talking about some music and music they were in the process of developing and they wanted their listeners to be able to hear it but they knew they weren't finished with it and it wasn't in it's final release. I really like that where you can let people see it, let people experience it, and yet set the expectation with them that "hey, it's not done yet."

I'm also reminded of Google. They're famous for releasing software in "beta" status. GMail was beta status for years before they did their first release. It's really kind of setting an expectation, both with yourself and with your users or your viewers, to realize that you know that it's not done and yet it's usable. It's something that can be appreciated and so forth.

Another issue that can kind of come up with thinking about perfection that I just ran into a video from Roberto Blake, and I'll leave a link down in the description, where he talks about in your strive for perfection you may miss the fact that there's different ways to measure perfection. You may be striving for perfection from one perspective and you may be putting off releasing something because it's not perfect and yet you're completely oblivious to the fact that there's other ways of measuring perfection and if you're looking at it from that perspective, either you're way beyond "perfect" or you're so far to go that you're never going to reach it, that the whole idea of perfection is kind of a nebulous concept that can really cause problems. And so I really like the idea of releasing something when it's done and defining done in a way that you can accomplish it and then realize that that's just a step in the process. You learn from that project so next time you do a similar project you can improve and get better at it.

Ryan Connelley has a... from Film Riot... ends his videos with something, a phrase "Write. Shoot. Edit. Repeat." And that's really emphasizing that you really do need to practice. Right. And we get better with practice. And so if we're looking to try to be perfect right now, that's minimizing the fact that we still have more practice to do.

So that's why I end with "Perfection's not required. Fun is!" Because we need to have fun in the learning, fun in the growing, fun in the developing and we don't need to necessarily be perfect.

I would like to say that the issue of something being done is done is better than it actually it being perfect, that's kind of like... that presents a problem with attitude because, yes, it's good to get something done because if something is done, you can move on to the next and keep developing. But there's the idea at the same time that, if done is done prematurely, then have we provided our best effort? And have we done our actual best if we're just trying to get something done and off our plate?

Within software, we have a concept of the definition of done. And so we set parameters as to what it means to be done. We know going in that this is what we need to accomplish for a particular project. And anything beyond that is beyond the scope of that particular project and so we don't necessarily need to do it. So we have a good way of measuring when we're done. So we're not releasing something that's unusable but at the same time we're not going overboard in terms of gold plating things.

So until next time, go make something.

Perfection's not required. Fun is!