Fusion 360 and a teardrop trailer

Sue is coming into some money in June so we are daydreaming about getting a bigger rig for road tripping. I looked into the whole vanlife thing but that looks like over kill. Plus none of the vans are as reliable as our Toyota’s. We are spoiled by cars that never break down. We do all the scheduled maintenance on our  ‘yodas’ and they last well into the 200,000 mile range on original engines and transmissons. My Corolla is at 374K. My Tacoma is at 242K and is still on the original everything, even the clutch.

So the thought of getting a Sprinter or Promaster or Transit and paying thousands in repair costs when they reach 100,000 is not appealing. We could get an old Ford Econoline and have it inspected, maybe replace a tranny or engine. But we’d still be stuck with an old van that gets 14 mpg.

So that got me looking at ways to make road tripping easier. I looked at roof top tents for a while because they could be mounted on our RAV4. But those things just move the wet tent to the top of the car, where it will start to smell like all old wet tents. And that’s after you put down $3000…for a tent!!

People who like them cite their safety. For example, they say that bugs, bears and cougars can’t get you up in the rooftop tent. Well, that’s not exactly a real life kind of problem. Only someone who’s never backpacked would think that way. We’ve slept in tents our entire lives. I’ve had ants in my tents, but nothing else. My buddy Fletch did have a bear wander into his tent in Yosemite, but only because he left the door open. They scared it out quickly and love to tell the story.

I moved onto to teardrop trailers, which our old friend Jim has had for decades. We could get one of those and tow it behind the car, instead of on top of it. We’d keep our trusty Toyotas, and move the sleeping platform to the trailer behind us. It’s like sleeping in my pickup canopy…no wet tent or wind noise to deal with. The light ones (500 Lbs) barely increase your gas mileage because they draft in the wind behind the car. New commercial ones run from $5000 to $20,000. But this guy sells a kit that gets you one for about $2300 plus shipping:

I like the looks of that teardrop because we made a stitch and glue kayak 16 years ago and Clint still uses it today. We all know the process and remember how fiberglass works. Only thing is, I might hate towing a trailer. We don’t really have to move from our ground tents into a trailer. The only time we really need a quick, dry sleeping area is on a 24 hour road trip at rest areas and truck stops when Sue is with me. The RAV4 or Tacoma are always too full with climbing and painting gear to stretch out in the back, so we have to doze in the front seats.

We can still do that just fine, it’s the nature of a road trip. But I was trying to buy luxury for the future Mark and Sue, the couple who is 5 years older in their seventies, slowing down,  body falling apart…etc. I can’t predict who we  will be, we all age differently.

A much simpler solution is to wait for the new Toyota Tundra to come out. It’s rumored to be a hybrid, with mpg figures approaching the hybrid RAV4…or at least in the thirties. With that, we could sell our trusty Tacoma, put a tall canopy on and sleep sideways in the huge 8 foot bed. It would be a one size fits all. No trailer to pull, no broken down Sprinter van to deal with 40 miles up a dirt road in Utah. But waiting a couple years for something we could use in June will be frustrating.

Sue is advising me to be patient. To just keep doing what we are doing…what’s the big hurry? She is right, as usual.

You may not have noticed but I’ve been messing about with my custom WordPress theme. I just put that new mountain graphic up in the masthead banner today. One of my students was trying it and it looked so nice I had to do it too.

3d modeling

I got frustrated with sketchup for a couple reasons:

  • It costs a lot of money to have the full blown program, and
  • It has some severe limitations that are deeply frustrating for someone used to the precision of Adobe Illustrator.

So I switched to Fusion 360. It’s free to use if you make less than $100,000 a year, or you have a education email address. Fusion is so much more precise than sketchup. It’s a steep learning curve…so steep that it will have you pulling your hair out. Nothing makes sense when you first start out. You can’t just jump in like with Sketchup. I tried to study it on lynda.com but must have started with the wrong series. I switched to youtube and hit gold.

I worked through about 8 of this guys lessons, he is a great example of how old guys rock. He has the teaching experience to step outside himself and see the gotcha’s from the perspective of a newbie. That’s a rare gift.

This one is showing how you can design a box with parametric variables. It’s a hinged box that can be easily changed to any size, from one inch to 6 inches. The parts all scale up proportionally and continue to fit because they are designed and measured with mathematical formula’s (parametric variables).
For example, the hinge on the bottom of the box is told to be one half the width of the flat side of the box. Flat meaning don’t measure the outer dimension of the box. Instead measure from the inner end of the corner radius…where it’s flat. In other words, the hinge isn’t hard coded at 10 millimeters. It’s told to be a percentage value of the box. I guess another way to say this is the box will look exactly the same proportionally at any size. You can mess about with width, length or height, basically make the box fit anything that well fit in a 3d printer, and it always works.
Pictured below is the first time I had to create a ‘sketch’ on a new plane (y axis). I told the hinge to offset a dynamic amount from the new y plane, shown in blue and orange. He uses some fancy math to position the hinge elements on the top of the box to either side of the hinge element on the bottom of the box. He even builds in clearance tolerance. This is super geeky, and super fun. V. asked me why I haven’t been painting lately…here’s the answer.

Harmonica Holder review

HarpArm EZ-Rack Pro Magnetic Harmonica Holder – Review

I play guitar and harmonica together, Bob Dylan style. I’ve had harp holders since 1972. Up until yesterday my best one was a $50 Hohner harp holder, but the screws kept falling out of it, rendering it useless.

I did a search online discovered the new magnetic harp holders. But it was $50. I went to Guitar Center and decided it was so close to my broken Hohner holder that I could do some modifications and save money. Because it was only $24, I bought the Harp Arm Magnetic Mic Stand Harmonica Holder.

I removed the broken missing screw parts from my Hohner, cobbled together some wood and aluminum and built a Frankenstein holder that seems quite good.

MacGyver’d Magnetic cell phone mount

I have wizgear cell phone mounts on my dashboard, but they depend on a plastic ball joint on a plastic neck. My recent vacation driving bumpy dirt roads broke the plastic neck. My solution? Remake the ball joint and neck from 9/16″ aluminum rod.

Phone case for climbing

Many of my partners are leading with iPhones in their pants pocket. Considering what they cost, I shudder when I see them waving them around with abandon, trying to get the best angle. They do this 6 pitches up in the air…which amounts to a 600 foot drop if something goes wrong.

If the route is too hard I will leave my big camera on the ground or in the car. I have a small camera…but we often bring an iPhone for  emergencies…worst case scenarios. And considering how good they are getting, it’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon. But my phone is too big for a pants pocket, and it has a stupid glass back…so it’s fragile.

I already have a metal fronted case, but there is only one bungy snap holding the phone in the case, and the glass side is pressed up against my harness, only protected by the inner plastic case. I considered buying a hardish soft shell case with a zipper, which I have for my point and shoot camera, but I don’t like zippers…hate them with a passion actually. Every zipper is on its way to breaking…it’s only a matter of time.

I wondered if I could make a user repairable, bombproof metal iPhone case.  Yes, it turns out I can.

I started with some concept drawings. I hadn’t really thought it through…but figured if I started working all would become clear. I’m also blocked right now, I wiped off my latest painting…so I needed some entertainment on my four day weekend.

concept drawing

concept drawing

Bending the aluminum was hard because it was wider than my vise. I had to use some 1/4″ iron to extend my vise. I was able to make my right angle bends using this jig and a sledge hammer.

hammering the right angle bend

hammering the right angle bend

partially bent right angle

partially bent right angle

bending jig

bending jig

both angles bent

both angles bent

After that I sewed it together on the bottom with 1/8″ bungy cord. I considered using a hinge, but the bungy cord added cushion and avoided the case having to be overly precise regarding thickness of the phone.

My initial plan was to have the biner seal the case, like the way a binier locks down a grigri. But it turns out that a binier has such a wide bottom that the case is not held closed. I found a way to use a threaded bungy to lock the case closed, supplementing the biner. Getting all that sorted out and debugged took most of a day. Then I showed it to Sue and Clint and they both thought it was stupid…overkill was the term they used. While I think they are right, it was still a fun exercise in the art of inventing. The fact that my invention was mis-guided is irrelevant.

One of the problems I solved in my mis-guided train wreck of an invention was that the 0.040″ aluminum  was too flimsy to make a good carabinier hangar. I glued on a double layer of metal there. This is version 1.0 after all. It’s not supposed to be perfect. I’m thinking I can hang this on my rack or harness next to cams and quick draws and it will be fine.