Kayak Running Lights

With the Texas Summer in high gear, it’s been necessary for us to get out either really early or late in the day. While it’s still pretty darn hot, the evenings are nice because you can watch the sunset and the bats emerge from the Congress Avenue Bridge.

The other night we found ourselves in complete darkness — without any running lights. While I wasn’t too worried about small boats — I did want the cruise boats to see us.

Having a bunch of LEDs on hand, and some PVC pipe — and not wanting to spend money of purchased lights — I came up with this:

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It’s made out of 1/2″ PVC pipe.  The uprights are thick-wall (high pressure) — so they don’t flex. The bottom gets screwed into a board (painted exterior white) using a cap. White LED at the top, red and green on the sides.

That little part you see sticking out (under the LEDs) is where the batteries and switch are located. I found that 3V Lithium batteries fit perfectly into 1/2″ thin-wall PVC (but not thick–you must use thin). I used some caps, screws, and a spring to make my own battery holder. The black thing on the other end is a rocker switch. Since most of the parts are just press-fit, removing the batteries is easy — just pull off the little pipe extension.

Normally you’d want the red and green up front, and the white at the back (so the length of the boat can be determined). But for Version One, I just kept it simple and all together. Better to have some light than none at all. My next version will probably have the tall white light assembly in the back, with a smaller setup up front. My key is to have to lights tall enough, since we run so low in the water.

 

 

Cat Crib Stand

Our cats love the Cat Crib, but they really haven’t used them when attached under a chair. Instead, we made some inexpensive and easy to assemble stands for the cribs.

This version will make a unit about 20″ square and 34″ tall.

Here’s what you need:

  • Three 10′ pieces of 3/4″ PVC Schedule 40 pipe. This is the kind you get for plumbing. They are about $2.28 each at Lowes.
  • Four 3/4″ Schedule 40 couplings. $2.61 for a pack of 10.
  • Eight 3/4″ Schedule 40 90 degree Side Outlet Elbow. $1.60 each.

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Total cost will be about $22.25 + tax.

The only tool you’ll need is a saw. I do mine on a miter saw, because it’s so quick. But you can use a hack saw, sabre saw, or PVC pipe cutters (if you own them already). I would not recommend a table saw and definitely don’t use a circular saw — too dangerous.

  1. Cut eight pieces 18″ long.  This makes the size of the square and is the smallest size for a Cat Crib to work. I’ve make some with 21″ spans, and that works fine, too. You’ll use all of one piece of 10′ PVC pipe and some of another.
  2. Cut four pieces 28″ long. These make the legs. You can adjust to just about any height. As little as 6 inches, but I wouldn’t go over 28″ (it becomes too tippy). You’ll use most of one piece of a 10′ PVC pipe.
  3. Cut four pieces 3″ long. These are used, with the couplings, to keep the crib from slipping down. Don’t go any less than 3″, or the straps won’t fit. Anything from 3″ to 6″ is fine.

Assembly

  1. Use four 90 degree side output elbows and four 18″ pieces of PVC pipe to make a square. Make sure the open outlets all face the same direction (ex. “up”) and that everything is square and tight. Tap together the pieces with a rubber mallet for a tight fit — but don’t bang too hard, or you’ll crack the elbows.
  2. Repeat the above step to make a second square.
  3. Attach a coupling to the end of a 28″ piece of pipe. Attach the 3″ piece to the open end of the coupling. So, you have 28″ + coupling + 3″ piece.
  4. Repeat the above step for the other three legs. You’ll have four in total.
  5. Using the four legs, make an elongated cube using the two squares. I usually put the four legs into one of the cubes, then align the other on top, and tap together. Make sure that the couplings (near the 3″ piece) are all on the same side (ex. “top”).

You’ll notice that I didn’t use any PVC cement on this. I’ve found that with 3/4″ you really don’t need it. The friction fit is pretty strong. And it allows you to play with the height of the unit, if you want. If you find it’s not tight, then use cement.

That’s it. Now, hang the crib from the upper part (the couplings keep it from sliding) and you’re set. Very simple design and easy for kids to assemble.

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And remarkably sturdy. Our 20# cat jumps into it without a problem. If you are going to have it outside, just drill some holes in some of the bottom pieces and screw into a deck. Or stake down. The cribs aren’t rated for outdoor use, so I’d keep it under cover. Or, make your own, out of canvas or whatnot.

Here’s a shorty version I made. This one is even easier, as you don’t need a bottom square.

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A modified version, using 90 degree elbows at two corners. So it would fit around the back of our Precor.

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GP-Wiz40 To RetroPie Arcade Controller

Now that the (endless) software issues have been taken care of, I built out the controller.

The button on the front edge is the ESC (in MAME) / exit emulator (others) button — press it and the emulator closes, returning the user to Emulator Station.

Lots of wires, but much simpler than it looks. I added an LED (above the GP-Wiz40 board) so that I can confirm that the USB is connected.

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The Big Screen : Frame

Just finished the frame part of our new outdoor big screen. It’s about 9 feet wide and 5 feet tall. We’ll be stretching the blackout cloth later today.

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Then to figure out how to hang/support it outdoors. We need to be able to easily take it up/down because (a) we want to use it often and (b) we can’t just keep it up all the time because of wind. More to come.

I’m glad I didn’t go crazy with the size (I was originally thinking 16 feet wide, 9 feet tall). But that would have been really tough to build and even harder to store.

If you’re looking for material to build your own, check out Carl’s Place.