Sunday, December 29, 2013


I am not an expert at making paella by any means, but this is how I make it.

The stock

I never use store bought stock unless I have no option.  I usually have the freezer full of bags of chicken bones that I save, but not this time, so I used a full chicken.

I don't use the breasts for the stock, since they don't give out that much flavor.  To remove them from the carcass, it's best to first remove the wish bone, then make a couple of cuts at the center on each side of the breast bone and simply pull from the breast fillets.  You only need to make a couple of cuts through joints to debone a chicken, most of it is twisting and pulling.  I chop it all in small pieces and roast it in the oven until it's well browned.

I throw it in a pressure cooker with a couple of celery ribs and two or three large carrots and one onion, which I first cook for 5 minutes with a bit of oil.  Then cover it with filtered water and cook at 15 psi for 1.5 hours.   Once finished, cool the pressure cooker in the sink with cool water and strain the stock.

I don't put any herbs or spices on my stock, it's a very simple stock.  If I need any extra flavors I add these later once I use the stock in a dish that needs that flavor.

The Meat

For this paella, I used chicken thighs and rock fish, although for the best paellas I've made I used rabbit.

I found a brine recipe in a magazine once and I never make chicken without brining it this way.  It makes it very juicy and perfectly seasoned.  Use 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of sugar and 4 quarts of water and brine the chicken for 45 minutes, then dry, cut in bite size pieces and save in the fridge.


I like to have all the ingredients ready to go before I start.  

First brown the chicken at high heat with olive oil, then remove from the pan and save.

Then make the sofrito.  I used 1 green pepper, 1 red pepper, 1 yellow onion and 4 garlic cloves.  Once all the vegetables are soft I add one can of tomatoes and cook it longer.  The secret for a good sofrito is a lot of patience.

Once the sofrito is ready I add the fish and the chicken, and also paprika, saffron and a yellow food coloring that they sell in Spain special for paellas.

Then add the rice, and cook it for 2 or 3 minutes.  I use 1 kilogram of rice for this paella size.  Bomba rice is the best.

Finally add the stock, about 200 ml per each 100 grams of rice, so in this case, 2 liters.  I usually save some extra in case I need it later.

Now raise the heat until it starts boiling then lower it and let it cook at medium low until the rice is almost done.

It's very important to not stir the rice at this point.  If you do this at a party, someone will come and undoubtedly grab your spoon and try to stir it.  Don't let them.

Raise the heat for the last 5 minutes and add the extra toppings, in this case I used green beans but you can use shrimp or mussels or whatever you like.

Cover with aluminum foil for at least 15 minutes and let it rest before serving.

Wooden Speaker Mounts

This weekend I made a set of speaker mounts out of plywood, a bunch of bolts and nuts, and some knobs I made with the 3D printer.

It can be tilted in two axes.  It's certainly not the simplest way to design a speaker mount and it is a bit bulky, but that's all intentional.  I like the way it looks with the two knobs and the home-made look of the plywood.  I have other store bought speaker mounts that use a ball that rotates in three axes which is much simpler, but these are really hard to adjust.  Also, the third axis of rotation is not really necessary anyway.  With this mount is really easy to tilt the speakers by just loosening one of the knobs, tilt, then tighten again.  This project is also a bit of an experiment.

First I prototyped it in the computer to get an idea of the rough sizes of all the pieces I needed.  Since some of the wood parts that serve as rotation pivots are square instead of round, I wanted to make sure these pieces would be have the correct range of rotation without being obstructed by other parts.  It's very easy to model and simulate this in the computer.

This is the 'arm' of the mount.  I used a t-nut here to be able to tighten this first screw.  All is made out of 1/2 inch plywood.  I also used a screw to go across the back side of this arm to provide extra support on top of the carpenters glue.

This is the face plate that screws to the wall.  For this second screw, instead of a t-nut, I carved a hexagonal hole in the wood with a chisel and embedded the nut in it with a hammer.

And that's how it all looks put together.  I used the same 3D printed knobs I made for this project.  The finish here is terrible, there're some burn marks on one side of the face plate but I'll take it all apart and give it a sanding and a couple more coats of lacquer.

Wood and Plastic Phone Docking Station

This is the second docking station I make for my phone.  This time I used the 3D printer for the top and plywood for the base.

I designed such that the little light that blinks when there are new notifications is hidden inside the slot, since while I am working at my desk, the light is very distracting.

First I made a very simple model of the plastic top in Blender.  For making things that require accurate measurements in Blender, I set the units as metric and then the scale as 0.001, which makes 1 blender unit correspond to 1 millimeter.  This ensures that when the model is exported to STL format it keeps the right dimensions.  I use my caliper to take measurements which I then use in the virtual model, then I print a prototype piece in low quality to make sure everything looks good and make any adjustments if necessary before I print the final piece.

The top attaches to the wooden base with screws, so I modeled a simple screw which then I subtracted with a boolean modifier to create the whole and the countersink.

I glued the micro usb connector with cement glue, and I ran the cable through a small slot which I routed on the wood.  I will probably use velcro tap to cover it all and then stick it to my desk.

The bottom is made with two layers of 1/2 inch plywood which I laminated together and then cut it to measure.  I gave everything a couple of coats of spray lacquer.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

3D Printed Golf Club Replica

My nephew is named after the golfer Bubba Watson, so I decided to make an (almost) replica of one of Bubba's real golf club as a Xmas present.  I used some photos I found in Google as reference.

That's the 3D model.  It took many hours of work spread throughout several weeks to come up with it.  I pretty much learned Blender as I went on making this model, so it's probably not very good if you know how to model properly, but the result worked out well enough for me anyway.

I started with a cube and applied a subdivision surface modifier, then added a bunch of loops and edges and moved things around until it looked like the real club.  The topology overall is quite a mess since I only started to watch topology tutorials mid-way through making this.  The shaft section of the club head is a cylinder that's connected to the main head piece.  The text in red is subtracted from the club head before I produce the printable STL model.  I learned a lot making this model.

That's a shot of the club head half way through, in Blender.

These are the many prototypes I made at different scales.

I spent a lot of time experimenting with different techniques for painting the letters etched on the club.  I ended up using a water based red ink I bought in a hobby store.  It's important to sand the piece very well so the ink only goes into the etched letters and doesn't stick anywhere else.  I also gave it several coats of lacquer to help make it slippery so I could wipe out the extra paint.

That's how the final piece looked like after sanding.  I printed it at 0.1 layer height on PLA plastic, it took 13 hours.  I use a combination of 220 and 400 grit sand paper, and the dremel with a buffing wheel.  It's very important to be very cautious with the sanding to not melt the plastic.

I used a very strong and hard cement glue to fill up the small gaps that were around some of the letters.  Then I sanded it all even more.

The final product.  I spray painted the club head with metallic paint.  The "V" piece is painted with a different brand of spray paint (and not lacquered) to make it look like a different metal.  There were 6 layers total of lacquer.

Golf aficionados will notice the 90 degree lie angle.  Unbelievably, I only noticed this after it was finished, so I think I will have to make another one after all.

I made the grip out of red plastic and didn't paint it.  I also printed it at a pretty rough layer height (0.3 mm) to make it look like an actual grip.  The shaft is made out of an oak wood dowel.  It can be replaced as it will surely break.  It's pressure-fitted to the club and grip.

That's a close up that shows how the etching ended up looking, pretty good.  There's some red that bled outside of the 'son' part of 'Watson' which I could have cleaned up by painting over again with some more spray paint but I didn't bothered.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Shop

I've been building up this shop since June this year, when I started getting more interested in wood working.

The view of the shop.  The table saw is a 13 amp, 10" Ridgid R4512.  It's a really awesome saw with all the features I wanted.  The fence is great, it is very silent, it has a cast iron top and a big power button that I can switch by switching it with my knee.  It can also be lifted and wheeled around, which is another very important feature.  I am going to build a router lift like this one and attach it on the right side of the table.

I made the three drawer cabinet out of 2x4s, plywood and recycled IKEA shelves for the fronts.  The handles are one of my first 3D printed creations. They are very rudimentary.

The bench is a Matthias Wandel design (like many other things in the shop).  It's made out of a solid core door I bought used for $35 and $15 worth of lumber.

I made all of the attachments on the plywood board custom for each tool.  I really don't like peg boards.  This looks much better, and it's fun to make the individual holders.   I made the wooden mallet on the left out of pine wood.  One small thing I should have done to it is adding some weight inside to make it heavier.  I also made that red holder for the caliper with the 3D printer.

This cabinet was a lot of tedious work.  I made the frame out of 1/2" plywood which I routed and glued together.  The front faces are made out of clear PVC, which I cut on the table saw and hot glued to the wood.  The hole for the finger I cut with the bench press.
I learned how important it is to be extremely precise when routing the grooves and cutting it all because 1/16" of an inch off can make the walls be noticeably crooked.  As a matter of fact, some of the error I had in places was such that I decided to not put a separator and instead make extra long drawers, like the one in the bottom right.  This ended up being great anyway so I can fit larger things there.  I love using painters tape to label things.  It's very easy to remove to change the label and very cheap.  I use it for labeling kitchen ingredients too.

That's the clamp holder.  I always end up with clamps laying around all over the shop.

I love having the chargers plugged and ready to go.  The hose the right side is for the shop vac, which sits underneath inside the cabinet.

The cabinet on the left has the cyclone separator and the shop vac inside.  The hose is connected to the table saw most of the time but can be unplugged from there and plugged to another hose I keep inside the cabinet for vacuuming other parts of the shop.  Most of the time I end up cleaning the shop by using a combination of compressed air and a broom to move all the dust to where this hose is, and then from there I vacuum it.  Works pretty well.

I spent the most time figuring out how to store all the spare lumber.  I ended up using three plywood boxes and two shelves.  Each of these store different types of pieces depending on whether they are long or flat, and the size: small medium or large.

These are some table saw inserts I made out of MDF.  These took me a few trials to figure out how to do because the part where the insert sits on the notches on the table needs to be really thin.  This is why I used MDF which I think is a lot stronger than some woods that I tried before. I heard using spare flooring boards works well too, especially because the surface is very polished.  I used small super magnets that I epoxied to the inserts to keep it from moving around.

The insert on the left is a zero clearance insert for the normal blade, the one on the far right is for the dado blades.  The one in the middle is a blank I haven't used yet, but will likely use it next time I need to make an angle cut.

 This sled is another Matthias Wandel inspired piece.  I made this out of some really nice oak plywood I recycled from a cabinet the previous owners left in the house.  I use this sled a lot.

This table is on the back side of the shop and here's where I paint the things I make.  The table top is a $20 hollow core door I picked up recycled.  The cardboard covering the wall is cut from a TV box. 

The shop vac and compressed air are wired to that switch box.

I love Hilti tools.  I have a cordless drill that I use all the time.  This is a hammer drill that's amazing.  It's always plugged and ready to use, which is great.  A bit overkill for most jobs, but I use it nevertheless, because it's such a cool tool.  I'd make lunch with it if I could.

Monday, December 9, 2013

3d Printed Stroller Handlebar Extensions

I used my 3d printer to make some extensions for my son's stroller, which is too short for me.
This is the 3d model of the clamps

This is the model for each knob.  I can make them for different sized holes and nuts by scaling the yellow cylinder and the green hexagon before subtracting them from the knob.

These are some prototypes I printed.  I first tried using SketchUp to do this and came up with the ugly prototype on the right, since I don't know how to do much in SketchUp that doesn't look blocky.  So I decided to learn Blender to do something more rounded and organic looking, and that's how I came up with the shape on the left.  It also has a hole in the middle with some material removed to save on plastic.

The knob on the top is also made with SketchUp.  The knob with the three prongs below it I made with Blender.  I decided to go with 4 pronged knobs in the end since the symmetry is much easier to model in that case, at least with my limited skills.

These are the final pieces printed in white PLA plastic, before painting.

And the final result.  I used cement glue to stick the metal nuts and bolts to the plastic and an angle grinder to grind off some of the extra length of the bolt.  I made the actual extension from a piece of 2x4 lumber and a 1 1/4" pine dowel which I spray painted black.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Plumbing the Alex Izzo Duetto II

i got the water filtration kit from which comes with almost everything i need:

     water filter
     water filter housing and mounting bracket
     water filter wrench
     two shut-off valves to put before and after the filter
     john guest tubing
     max adaptor

i also bought three more things that didn’t come with the filter kit:

     a water hardness test strip
     a john guest tube cutter
     a BSPP-to-john guest adaptor

i had already tested the hardness of my water in the past but I wanted to double check, that’s why I got the test strip.  if the water is too hard, there’s also a softener system that can be bought at chris coffee, but I ended up not needing it.

the jg tube cutter is important to make clean cuts on the john guest tubbing. 

the BSPP-to-JG adaptor was the trickiest part.  my coffee machine is an izzo alex duetto II, which comes ready to be plumbed very easily by just flipping a switch behind the drip tray.  it also comes with a braided line that can be connected to the bottom of the machine.  the trick is that that the end of this line had a 3/8” BSPP fitting which is not common in the US.  so after getting advice from the folks at chris coffee, they also sent me an adaptor on the mail to go from JG to BSPP.

note that one doesn’t need to buy this all from chris coffee.  as a matter of fact, when I started looking into this I found most of the parts I needed at home depot, although I did get stuck at the BSPP fitting since I couldn’t find it there.  so then I emailed chris coffee and researched more online and decided to go with the john guest tubing which is amazing because it’s so easy to install and can be cut to whatever lengths you need.  if you don’t want to use JG tubing, I believe this adaptor will go from standard us treading to BSPP (but I am not sure).

this is how the BSPP-to-JG adaptor looks like (already connected to the BSPP end):

the installation was pretty straight-forward, once I figured out all the parts:

first you need to find which is the cold water line, and shut off the valve.  then install the max adaptor in between the line to the faucet and the valve.  at the JG end of the “T”, install some tubbing and then a shut-off valve, then from there to the water filter housing:

remember to purge at least 2 gallons of water through the filter before using it, otherwise the carbon residue can damage the machine.

then from the out of the water filter, install another shut-off valve and more tubbing to the espresso machine:

then connect the JG tubing to the braided line coming from the espresso machine using the BSPP-to-JG adaptor.  remember tu use teflon in all these connections.

I had to make a hole through my cabinet, such that my tubing could go behind my dish washer and up through my counter.  this killed me but I had to drill a hole in the counter, but the alternative was to drill a hole in the wall and do a lot more work and routing of the pipes through the wall which my father convinced me wasn’t worth it:

so that’s all.

to change the filter in the future, first shut off the valve before the filter, then turn on the machine to have the pump pull some water from it, so it drains the water in the filter housing and tubing.  then shut off the valve after the filter.  use the wrench to open the housing and replace the filter, and remember to purge it before using it.