Saturday, July 14, 2012

How to make digital photos from film negatives


Have some negatives you want to turn into digital images? Follow along as I show one way of accomplishing this task. This episode shows what to make, how to setup your camera and basic post-processing steps to convert those old negatives into files ready for the digital age.

For alternate ways of doing this:


Hi Makers, Builders, Do-It-Yourselfers and Photographers. Harley here with another House of Hacks video. I know this one is supposed to be part two of making soft jaws for the vise but I'm currently in the process of working on that, as evidenced by my red fingers. And last night I was talking with my Dad about scanning some negatives to convert them to digital and that kind of inspired me to do this video where I go over some of the details that I've done in the past for this project. So this video is going to be about converting negatives into digital pictures.

I got this idea a couple years ago online from somewhere. I thought it was DIYPhotography.net but when I went to look for it, I couldn't find the original article. I did find two other interesting articles though on that sight about how to do the same task using a different manner, so I'll put a link down in the description if you're interested in some alternatives, go check them out. DIYPhotography.net is a great resource for do-it-yourself photography ideas. Anyway, this is one I put together a couple years ago and that's what I'm going to be showing today.

Ok, we have a pretty simple setup here. We just have a cardboard box with holes cut out on both ends and a camera pointing into it with a means of holding the negative. In this case I have my camera here setup with a radio trigger on top and I'm using a holder for an enlarger to hold the negative. You could just as easily use a piece of cardboard cut out with a hole in it. On the other side of this box there is the flash with the other end of the radio remote. And inside the box there's a piece of paper. Get some light inside there. So you can see it's just taped to the top of the box, about halfway back, and that acts as a diffuser so we don't have a hotspot coming from the flash.

To get the best image possible, you want the negative to be as large as possible in your image, on your sensor. To do this, typically you need to zoom in as close as possible and get the lens as close as it'll focus in order to maximize that image.

In my particular case I have four lenses and two bodies that I can choose from. One of the lenses won't fit on one of the bodies. That reduces me down to seven possibilities, or potential lens / body combinations that I can use in order to try to maximize the number of pixels horizontal and vertical for the final image.

So I took some test shots just to see which combination would give me the largest final image. First of all I checked my full frame 5D and I couldn't fit the 18-55 lens that only fits on my crop factor sensor camera. But I tried the nifty 50, and I tried the 75-300, and I tried the 24-105. In testing the 24-105 I noticed that the auto-focus would only go down to a certain range. That lens also has another focus range called "macro" but you have to manually move it into there and focus it. I actually took two test images with the 24-105 and you can see the difference between the regular that the auto-focus goes to and the macro mode, which isn't really a true macro.

My other body is an XTi crop factor, and so I tried that with the 18-55 and also the 50, the 75-300 and the 24-105. And out of these seven combinations, surprisingly, the one that gave me the largest image on the negative, the largest image of the negative was the 18-55 on the XTi. So that's the one I used.

If you have access to a true macro lens, that's actually better because a true macro will give you a one to one recording of whatever your subject is onto your sensor. And so if you have a 35 mm film and you have a full frame camera then a one to one is going to be a perfect match for the film size to the image sensor. If you have a crop factor, then you don't necessarily need to go all the way to one to one but the macro lenses are design to focus very, very close to the lens. So you really can maximize the image usage with the macro lens. You can rent those if you don't have them, they're not terribly expensive to rent.

Now that we have the box made and we've chosen the camera and lens setup, the next thing is to actually physically set it up to start taking pictures.

The first part is to make sure that you have the distance correct to make the image as large as possible on your image and still be able to be in focus. That's going to be controlled by which camera and lens setup you have. Once you have things setup and in focus, the next thing is to make sure things are plumb and level. You want to be able to get the film plane on your camera to be plumb and parallel to the negative that you're taking the image of, this way you eliminate parallax errors in your images.

The way I did this on mine was to use the bubble level on my tripod to get my camera plumb and level and then I just assume the floor and everything up from there is close enough for the purposes I have here. If you really wanted to dial it in, you could put another bubble level on top and use shims to get everything exactly right.

Next is to make it parallel this way. And to do that, I put a straight edge across the back and measured with a tape measure to each side of the box and got that so it was exactly the same. That should get things dialed in pretty well.

The last thing is to make sure the image is centered as close as possible in the viewfinder. That way you don't have distortion from the edges of your lens.

Next you need some sort of remote for the flash. I'm using cheap Cactus radio triggers. You can get them on eBay for about thirty bucks. You can also use more expensive ones. Use whatever you have. Also, a corded, where you have something that fits on the hot shoe with a cord going around, as long as it's long enough, that would work too. You just need to be able to trigger your flash from your camera remotely.

And finally, it's not required, but it makes things much easier is if you have a trigger for your shutter release remote for your camera.

That's it for the physical side. Next to setup your camera.

First thing you want to make sure you're shooting in raw mode at your highest resolution. You want to be able to have full control of color balance and exposure and your highest bit depth possible for post processing. The only way to do that is with raw. JPEG just won't cut it. You lose too much information when things are saved to JPEG.

Next is the exposure. For the flash that I have, I have quite a bit of flexibility on controlling the intensity of the flash and so I just set my f-stop to be in the middle of the range for the lens to eliminate the most defraction from either wide open or shut down. Then I adjusted the exposure on the flash itself. If you have a cheaper flash that only might have two power levels, like my other flash, then you'd have to adjust your f-stop accordingly to kind of dial things in.

Shutter speed has to be below your sync speed. I just use 125, it makes it easy. And ISO, I just use 100 as a standard rule.

That's it for the physical setup. That's it for the camera setup. At this point you're ready to just start taking pictures.

Ok. At this point I assume you have taken all your photos you want to take of your negatives and you're ready to do some post processing. This is all going to be in Photoshop and Bridge because that's what I have. The concepts are transferrable to other applications if you have them. You just need to figure out which commands they are to do the same types of things I'm doing here.

The first thing is to rotate and crop the image. This is going to open it up in Bridge where up here at the top we'll have our straighten tool. I'm just going to drag this across the top here, like so. And then we can crop this down. I like to give it a little bit of extra head room on the outside so I can do final crop in Photoshop. This is just a first pass to make the file sizes manageable. You can see here I didn't get the negative quite square in the holder when I took this particular image. That's pretty much all I need to do here in Camera Raw. I'm going to do everything else in Photoshop where I can put things on layers and that kind of thing.

This base cropping is going to be the same for all you images so you can actually apply this, in Bridge anyway, you can apply this once and then tell it to do it to all the files that have the same setup. So it makes it easy.

These first several steps, they're going to be the same for all the images in a given shoot, for a given set of negatives so you can actually make actions out of these to repeat, so you don't have to sit there and continually go through clicking on all these different things repetitively.

So we've got it rotated, we've got it cropped. The next step is to go up to Image, and go to adjustments, and under Adjustments you have Invert. That will convert this from a negative image into a positive image.

And you can see our color balance is a little whacked out so that's going to be the next thing we tackle. I like using curves because it's a one button adjustment. I just use this middle eye dropper tool which sets a grey point. So I can click on that and then click on something that should be a neutral white / grey color. I'll use my brother's pajamas here and our colors get pretty nice. It's a little whacked out but not too bad. Much better than it was before.

One thing I notice is these images are always really soft. To fix that I like to use a high pass sharpen. So I duplicate the background layer with a control J. And then I go up to Filter and choose Other and then High Pass. The radius you use is going to depend on the size of your image. Smaller images you want a smaller radius. Larger images you want a larger radius. Use just what works well. For images of this size, I like 4, that works fairly well. Then we go into our blending mode and change it from Normal to Overlay. And we have a sharper image. It's still not super sharp, but it's better than it was. This is what it was out of camera. And this is what it is now with an overlay, a high pass overlay. It's quite noticeable. That's before and that's after.

That's pretty much what you'd do to every photo in a given set. Anything after this is probably going to be done on a per photo basis rather than across the whole batch.

The next thing I'm going to do, I noticed on my histogram that it's kind of dark. There's a lot of area over here that we can bump up. So I'm going to go in here and add another layer. This time I'm going to use the Levels. And I'm going to just drop this white point down to where we're just starting to clip some of the bright highlights. Like so. And that kind of brightens that up. Before it's darker and now it's much, much brighter, a nicer exposure.

Now with that being brighter, it's more noticeable that this couch is kind of blue. I remember that couch. That was originally a black leather couch that my parents purchased long ago. I'm going to use the hue/saturation, this is just going to be a quick change. I'm going to go in here, since there really aren't any other blues in the image, I'm just going to select the blues and desaturate them. That fixes up that couch pretty nicely. It's still a little on the blue side but not too bad. I guess I could go into the cyans and play around with more, but, for this it's good. I did lose some of the blues in my brother's pajamas so I'm going to go in on the layer mask and paint in some black to bring those back in, kinda like so.

And then I'd do a final crop on this particular image. Something sort of like this. Get rid of all this yucky stuff on the outside edges. About like so. And you end up with a final image. Actually I think I missed something there at the bottom. Let me do that crop again. Bring it in here. I think I took it down too low before. Trim off the yellow on the top right and the grey on the bottom right. Then get rid of the yellow on the bottom left.

And there we go. There's the finished image. Like I said, the first several steps you can put in an action and save yourself a whole lot of hassle. And then each individual photo is going to need a little bit of touch-up, like I did on this one.

That's pretty much it for post-processing.

That wraps up this House of Hacks episode. If you liked it, hit the thumbs up button. Next episode we should be back on track with part two of the soft jaws project. To be notified, you can hit the subscribe button up here.

Until next time, go make something. It doesn't have to be perfect, just have fun.

Update: Fixed typo.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How to make soft jaws for a vise - Part 1


This shows how to make some wooden jaws for a metal vise out of scrap lumber.

And now a part two with some improvements.


Hi Makers, Builders and Hackers. Harley here with a quick and easy to make shop tool accessory project.

I was working on a repair project a couple weeks ago, and needed to put the project in a vise. However, because it was a repair, it already had a finish on it and I didn't want the metal jaws on the vise to mar the finish on the finished piece. So, I grabbed a couple pieces of scrap wood out of the pile and was trying to balance two pieces of thin scrap wood with the project and tighten up the vice all at the same time. Things were just falling all over the place, getting messy, I figured there had to be a better way. I went back to the scrap wood pile, pulled out a cut off piece of two-by-four and realized the width of the two-by-four was almost exactly the width of the vice jaws. And inspiration struck.

What I realized was I could make a couple cuts: one down the center; one at about a quarter in on one side and one about a quarter in on the other side; trim those off; and then do another cut across here. And I would end up with two pieces that would fit over the jaws giving me a nice soft, relatively speaking, surface to clamp things with.

There are six cuts that I can do with just four setups. The first setup I'll cut lengthwise for the first notch, flip the board over, cut the second notch lengthwise; move the fence over to the halfway point on the wood and cut the long slit that would separate the two jaw pads. Third setup: move the fence down and cut off the first notch, flip the board over, cut off the second notch. Fourth setup: move the fence down a little bit and finally cut off the two soft pads and the cutting will be done.

With those cuts done, we now have a functional set of soft jaws. We can put a project in there and tighten it down without having the metal jaws of the vice coming into contact with the project we're trying to keep nice and pristine.

So that's it for this episode. Next episode I plan on doing some upgrades for this to make it a little bit more functional.

Feel free to comment, like and subscribe on the YouTube channel.

Until next time, go make something. It doesn't have to be perfect, just have fun!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quick Tip: 2-part epoxy mixing tray


Presenting an quick, disposable way to mix two-part epoxy.


Hi Makers, Builders and Hackers. Harley here with a quick tip.

Whenever I'm working on a project that I need some 2-part epoxy on, it seems like I'm always scrounging in the trash for something to mix it up in. Last time I needed this I realized… I had some scrap left over from a previous project, and I realized that the bottom of cans are the perfect thing to mix 2-part epoxy in. They're real easy to… you just take a knife or some scissors and you can just run around the bottom. You're going to be throwing away… planning on throwing this away anyway so it's not like you're using something you'd otherwise be needing. It just seems like the perfect solution for mixing epoxy in. They cut off easily like that. I'm going to bring home a bunch of cans from work and have a nice little mixing tray so I can have them on hand whenever I need to mix up some epoxy.

That's it for tonight. Until next time, go make something. It doesn't have to be perfect, just have fun.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How to rebuild a lamp


A quick overview showing how to replace the switch in a shop lamp.


Hi Makers, Builders and Hackers. Harley here.

I've got this nifty little shop lamp that I picked up a number of years ago. I think I got it when I got either my band saw or my drill press. And it's really handy. I think I got it a Woodcraft for like $20 or something like that. And it's got a magnetic base so you can stick it on the metal table of the tool or on the side of the tool itself. And it's got multiple points of articulation so you can move the light where ever you want it. Extend it out or crimp it in. It's got a couple points where it pivots on the base and on the lamp itself so you can move the lamp where ever you really want it. It's just a really handy little lamp and inexpensive. Last time I went to use it however the switch just would not switch. It was completely frozen up for some reason. So I'm going to take it apart and see if I can see what's going on with it and see if I can fix it.

In taking everything apart, I can not see from visual inspection what's going on. It's just... It doesn't really come apart any further than this. There's a couple rivets in here and if I really wanted to get ambitious I could drill it out, but then I'd never be able to put it back together. I did notice in taking it apart that there's some plastic melted looking bits right here where it looks like it got really hot and melted the plastic a little bit. I'm guessing... As I was taking it apart I noticed I have a 100 watt bulb in here and I also noticed that the... inside here it says "use 60 watt type... or smaller bulbs." I think I may have just overheated it and melted the thing. So, the moral of the story here is... use... don't put a larger bulb in here than it was designed for.

I did go to Home Depot, or Lowe's I guess it was, and picked up another switch. I'm going to take it apart and see if it will work. It's the same type of switch. It looks on the surface like it's a good match. In fact, as I look at it now, it looks like an exact match. So, I'll take it apart and see if it fits in the fitting and hopefully it'll be working here in a minute.

Yay! It works. It was an absolutely perfect fit. This piece I got at Home Depot looks like it was exactly the same part and it fit without any problems whatsoever. And so, I'm glad. Got my little lamp back and I can start doing some band sawing now. Awesome.

Until next time, keep on hacking. It doesn't have to be perfect, just have fun.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tool Review: AWS Blade Digital Scale


Review of an inexpensive digital scale: the AWS Blade 1KG (Affiliate link).


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-It-Yourselfers. Harley here. I've got a project coming up in a couple months that requires measuring things in grams. I'm born and bred here in the United States and grams don't mean a whole lot to me. So, to kind of put that in perspective, a nickel, a US nickel, is five grams and a penny is two and a half grams. A 1000 grams, a kilogram, is about 2.2 pounds. So, I needed to measure things that are very light. All I had available to me was a kitchen scale that measured up to 10 or 12 pounds or a bathroom scale, neither of which would work well measuring down into these low ranges. So, I went out to Amazon and did some searching around and based on reviews, I picked up this little scale. It's made by AWS and it's a Blade one kilogram digital pocket scale. A tenth of a gram accuracy. Backlit display. Includes two AAA batteries. So, we'll open the box, do some initial tests and see what it looks like.

After finishing up the unboxing, I kind of cleared off the table and got rid of everything, so we really have a vinyl case, a little hard plastic protection case that the thing fits in, and the scale itself. It's 2.7 inches square and designed, I think actually it's designed for a food scale. It's small enough to carry with you so if you're on a diet you can measure the quantity of food you're taking in.

To open it up, you just push and it pops open and now we have a little display here with three buttons. We have an on/off button, mode button and a tare button. On/off does exactly what it says. Mode allows you to switch between grams, ounces, troy ounces and pennyweight. I've heard of troy ounces, I think it's used in jewelry making. I've never heard of pennyweight; I'm not sure what that does or what that's used for. And then tare allows us to put something on here and zero out the scale to be able to weigh just the contents of what's in there.

So let's turn this on. Speaking of power, you noticed in the unboxing the batteries were shipped put in backwards with a little plastic tab in there. So during the unboxing process, I put the batteries in properly and pulled the tab out. They put that in there for shipping so it doesn't drain the batteries.

When we turn it on, it comes up in the default mode of grams with a zero zero. I've got some pennies here. According to the US Mint web site, pennies are supposed to be 2.5 grams. We'll take a look and see what we end up with here. This one is, this one is 3.1 grams which is a little heavy. I'm not sure what's going on there. This one shows 2.4. And this one says 2.5. And this one says another 2.5. Hmm. This one shows 2.6. 2.5. 2.6. This one also says 3.1. Wonder if they changed the weights sometime, over time. This one says 2.6. This one says three also. I'm guessing these are older pennies based on their color. That's a '76. This one's an '81. This one says, ooh, '59, wow. That's an old penny. So apparently older pennies weigh more than newer pennies do. These are all much newer based on their color. And, looking at the years, yeah, these are all within the last decade or so. Here's one from earlier in the '90s. But, yeah, these are all '90s and 2000s. So apparently somewhere in the late '80s sounds like they changed the weight. So four pennies should be 10 grams if things are calculating right. And right at 10.1. So this looks like it's weighing pretty well.

And just for grins and giggles, I've got some nickels here. Nickels are supposed to be five grams and five and ten and 14.9 and 19.9. So, yeah, they seem to be adding up. It looks like it's working pretty well for these ranges of weights.

I've got a one and a quarter pound weight. I did some conversion, I think this is supposed to be 567 grams. We'll see if that fits on there and what it weighs out to. It shows 587 grams, but you know, it's just a weight. Twenty grams is I'm sure well with in tolerances for just an iron weight for working out with. And that one shows exactly the same. I'm guessing these are more inaccurate than the scale itself from what I've seen so far with pennies and such. So I'm going to call this kind of good. The mode you just cycle through to get the different weighting systems.

And let's give tare a try. So, if we put something on here we're going to use as a container, that comes out to be 141 grams, we hit tare and it resets to zero so now we can weigh just the contents. Let's use some of our older pennies. So that should be like 9.3, right on the nose. There we go. 9.4. So it looks like those are 3.1 grams originally from the older pennies. Looks like everything works well.

I did find after the unboxing, inside the box stuffed in there, there was a user's manual which I didn't see in the initial unboxing. I did go online and find it. It's also available there at the manufacturer's website. This scale can be calibrated which is kind of nice if it gets out of calibration. I don't have a calibration weight though; you need a 500 gram weight to be able to calibrate it. But, you just hold down the mode button and it goes into calibration mode and automatically does its thing and it's done. So that's it. I don't remember what I paid; it was in the $22, $23 range I think on Amazon. Maybe $18 or something like that.

It looks like for my purposes it's going to work really well. It's nice, small, lightweight, looks like it's reasonably accurate.

I recorded that video a couple weeks ago and since then I've had an opportunity to use it. There were two features that I discovered that were not documented in the manual.

First of all it has an auto-off feature. When you let it sit for somewhere, I'm not sure what the exact timeout value is, it's somewhere less than a minute, probably 30 seconds to 45 seconds, without having any changes in the weight, it would automatically turn itself off.

The second feature that it had is that when you did turn it on, anything that you had on the plate, it would calibrate that to be zero. It's kind of like the tare feature button that I mentioned earlier that automatically happens when you turn the device on.

These features individually seem like decent features to have. I can't complain about either one of them. However, when they're combined in the particular workflow that I was experiencing, they caused some problems. And I didn't find any way to be able to turn them off, which would have been nice.

The workflow I was doing was I'd weigh something out, I'd go do something, I'd come back to it and want to add to what I'd already weighed out. And the problem of course was in that time period that I was away from it and come back, it'd turn itself off. Then when I turned it back on, of course what was on there got zeroed out. So I had to do the math in terms of what was on there and what I was adding, I had to do all that in my head. It would have been nice, because I was looking for a total weight, it would have been nice if I could have turned one of those features off, and then it would have worked exactly, perfectly, for my workflow.

Other than that one caveat, it worked really well. The accuracy seem to be decent. I didn't have anything that was obviously wrong with it. Everything worked out in the end as if the weights were correct. So, I can't say they were wrong. And it worked correctly every time, other than the one caveat. So overall I thought it was a good little scale, particularly for the price.

So that's it for this review. Until next time, go make something. It doesn't have to be perfect, just have fun.

Monday, February 27, 2012

How to make a "super" extension cord (aka power distribution box)


This is an overview of a recent project making a "super" extension cord. It's a multiple outlet box for "wall wart" power supplies, battery chargers and the like. It's intended for low amperage devices.


Hi Makers, Builders and Do-It-Yourselfers. Harley here.

My wife has this pile of miscellaneous chargers and wall warts and things that need to be plugged in and she only has one outlet. It's kind of a mess to be changing things back and forth. It's a messy pile; she doesn't know what to do with it. She came to me the other day and asked if I could help her find a solution.

We went to some home improvement stores looking for power strips and found some. Umm, nothing that really worked… that we thought would work well with what we thought we needed in terms of count and spacing and that kind of stuff.

So, I had some materials left over, some outlets, some romex, some wire nuts, some wood, and uh, from previous projects, and decided I'd try to make something. I talked to her about all the things she wanted to plug into it, where she wanted to put it, kind of basic specifications, requirements, types of things and started to work.

And then I took some scrap wood and make this box. The sides are made out of particle board. The top and bottom are MDF. The back is plywood. The dimensions are based on what she needed and constrained by what I had on hand. It was looking a little bit rough, so I put a couple coats of black spray paint on it and to try to dress it up a bit.

I picked up some 3/4 by 3/4 by 1/8 inch angle aluminum and made some brackets for each row. I drilled holes where I wanted the outlets and switches. And did a test on these supposedly self-tapping screws on some scrap material. It worked fine. I started driving it into this material and it promptly broke off. I got a punch and punched it out and a tap and then tapped all the holes and everything worked fine then. I think this material was a little thicker than my test material and it was just too thick for the self-taping screws. We've got switches for each row to be able to switch them on and off independently of each other and a pilot light to tell you when it's on or off.

So the next step was to wire everything together. And we'll flip this over and take a look at how that works.

So these three lines come from the plug. The white one goes to the switch for the pilot light and then around to the white side for each of the outlets. The black line comes up to the unswitched side of the switch and another black line comes from the switched side to the black side of the outlets. We have the copper line that comes into all the green screws for the ground circuit.

Each outlet in the row is simply daisy chained to the one before it. White goes to white. And black goes to black. And ground is simply looped around the green screws. Starting at the switch and all the way down to the end.

Now that I've shown you the physical wiring, let's look at a schematic diagram. There are three items in this device: the plug, switches with pilot lights, and outlets. Starting with the plug, we have hot, neutral and ground lines. The hot is black. Neutral is white. And ground is uninsulated copper. The ground simply goes from one device to the next, connecting to the green screws. The neutral goes first to the pilot lights and then to the neutral side of each of the outlets. Next the hot goes to the switch. This switch with the pilot light can be setup in several different configurations. In a future video, I plan to show some of the different ways this switch can be used, but for the purposes of this project I want the light to come on when the switch is turned on so I'm going to use the default configuration here. The hot line goes to the unswitched side of the plug that's not connected to the light. Then I connect the switched hot side from the switch to each of the outlets in succession. This means there's no power coming from the hot side when the switch is off. When it's on, power flows to both the pilot light and the outlets.

After I wired everything together, I needed to make a cover for the front. I did this out of some 26 gauge sheet metal and just cut 10 square holes for the outlets and switches. In order to do this I used three cutting tools. First of all I used the standard, kind of scissors style aviation shears; typical of what you use most often for cutting metal. Then I also used some dual edged cutting nibblers, shears, it's gone by a couple different names I've heard. And finally I used some nibblers to really clean up the edges and get some precision cuts.

First, using a fine tipped permanent marker, a tape measure and combination square, I laid out lines for the holes.

Next I created a starter hole simply by using a large screwdriver as a punch.

Then I opened up the hole with the metal snips.

Now with the larger hole, I could use the dual edged snips to cut out the majority of the hole. I'd not heard of this type of cutter until several weeks ago. It worked well to cut out from the middle of the sheet. and there's no curl in the metal afterward like there is with standard scissor-style snips. However, they don't work well on an edge if there's not enough support. Also, they have a kerf of about an eighth of an inch that you have to take into consideration when doing your layout.

After cutting out the majority of the hole, I went back to snips for a bit of touch up.

Final clean-up was done with a nibbler. These are like tiny shears that punch out a small strip about a sixteenth of an inch by an eighth of an inch. They can be very precise, but since they don't take off much material, it take awhile to make cuts of any length.

The plan was to put some pop rivets in here on each rail in between each of the outlets in order to hold the sheet metal to the assembly underneath. But after putting in the cover plates, I find it's not going to go anywhere. It's really solid. And, if I just leave it the way it is, it's a whole lot easier to assemble, and if I ever need to take it apart in the future, it'll be much easier to, take apart and make any changes if I need to.

One thing I found after I put the cover plates on, there are a couple places where either I mis-measured or I cut too, too wide of the line, or something, or there's enough variation in the manufacturing of the cover plates and switches and all, that I have a couple places where I have a little bit of the sheet metal line coming through. I'm not real wild about that, but such is it in hacks.

So I drilled a hole here for the, cord to come through and vacuumed everything out and put a wire tie on the cord to act as a strain relief so it doesn't pull back out and put pressure on the ends of the wire.

If you don't have one of these and you do anything at all with wire ties, they're really handy. They're called a "zip tie gun." And they're like I think less than $10 at Lowe's or Home Depot and they work really well. You put the zip tie in here and just kind of pull, it cranks down, pulls everything tight, and there's also a little cutter in there so while you have it pulled tight, you can kind of twist, and it cuts it all off. It works really well if you have to do anything of any real significance with zip ties. One thing I have found though is with these really large zip ties, the cutter cuts really kind of too close and they have a tendency to pop off. So on this particular one I just used a pair of diagonal cutters and cut it, left about an eighth of an inch here on the end.

The next step is to kind of wire tie everything together with wire nuts and then we'll assemble the top and put on… we'll assemble the top and attach it permanently to the box.

Ok. So I wire nutted the solid core wire coming from the rest of the box to the stranded core wire coming from the plug. And just kind of wire tied all three of these together. The green to the copper. The white to the white and the black to the black. A couple things to keep in mind when using wire ties, particularly with stranded and solid core wire; the stranded wire wants to wrap around the solid core and so you need to strip off more length on the stranded than you have on the solid core. And then as you're tightening them down, you want to be tugging on each wire individually and the cap as a whole to make sure you have a good solid connection in there and that nothings going to come apart on you. Once it's put together though, I've never had these things work their way loose. They stay tight until you intentionally take them apart.

Ok. To hold the top on I got some angle aluminum to… that will go along the edges. One side of this is one half inch and the other side is three-quarter inch. I'd gotten some equal sided aluminum before and found that I didn't have enough clearance on the front with the face plate on here. So I went back and got some that had different lengths on the edges. But I think that… I'll put some screws in on the sides on the long side and I think that'll hold that on there nicely.

Got the edges on to hold the front on; got some trim pieces on it; eased the edges with a file so they're not quite so sharp; added a handle, some feet. I think we're ready to give this a try.

I have it plugged in. There's no smoke. The lights are still on. I think we're good. Although the switches are all off. I don't have any initial shorts anyway. So I'm going to give this thing a test.

I've got this little device here. I don't know what they're called but you can pick them up at home improvement stores and I'd be surprised if they're more than twenty bucks. They're really cheap. But they're really handy when you're working with 110 electrical outlets. They've got three lights on them and they have one pattern that shows up when it's correct and five different patterns for five different error conditions like open ground, open neutral, hot ground reverse, those types of things. Very handy if you're buying a house and you want to check, you should check your outlets before you buy, so when you make an offer you can put conditions on it if there's anything wrong, you can have it fixed. If you're doing your own electrical wiring you can check it. That type of thing. For this I'll use it to check my wiring in the box.

It's real simple, you just kind of plug it in and turn it on and viola, we have two lights that indicates correct. And to kind of verify I didn't get anything reversed as I went down the line, I'll plug it in to the last one and we still have to green, uh, orange ones indicating correct. Awesome. And we'll try the bottom one and turn it on. And correct. And turn this one on and it's correct. So, I'm assuming everything else is probably ok. I mean I could have something reversed and then reversed back, but, eh, I'm not going to worry with it. The pilot lights all come on. If we turn everything off, we should not have anything, and we don't. So I… hey… I think everything's good, this is looking great. Time to go install it.

There we go. We've got room for battery chargers. Other battery chargers. Wall warts. Expansion room. Places to put other things that aren't right here. Overall I think it'll work well. So until next time, go make something.