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October 15, 2012

Compleated Frame

Fall Bridge, matted and framed.

Fall Bridge, matted and framed.

   My print arrived today, and so it was time to fill my new frame.  Matting didn't take long, although I didn't do a very good job.  I don't have a mat cutter so I couldn't achieve the thin white border around the image.  Nonetheless I think the result turned out well.  It has been a fair bit of work putting this together, but I learned a lot in the process.  I have already begun planning the next frame.  I actually started on one, but the router table I am using just isn't up to the task.  I'm going to have to build me own, so that is next on my list. 
   Pictured is the finial result.  The print I ordered online from a company that had received good reviews, and this was my test to see if I liked their quality enough to continue using them.  I am pleased with the quality so I will be ordering more from them.  You can compare the finial result to the concept image.  The model is fairly close.  It lacks the wood grain, and the real frame doesn't shine quite so much.  They are pretty close and modeling really helps getting a feel for what the result should look like.

October 12, 2012

Eliminating Flicker on LED lights

Test Setup

Test Setup

One annoyance with cheap LED lights is the flicker they exhibit. This is caused by how they are setup to run off of AC voltage. To keep costs down, the voltage is only rectified, turning the AC voltage into a signal that runs between 0 and 170 volts 120 times a second. It's the 120 Hz that makes they LED lights flicker. It is usually only noticeable when you are moving.

There is a way to fix the flicker. One method I wrote about back in July of 2011. The LED rope light I was using had a bridge rectifier on the cord, but no filter capacitor. So I simply added one and eliminated the flicker. That works, but not all LED lights place a rectified in an easy to access location.

My solution involved a broken laptop power supply. While the supply didn't produce the DC voltage to run the laptop any longer the portion for rectifying and filtering the power was still functional. I knew this because my roommate asked me to look at the supply to see if I couldn't fix it. I had hoped there was a blown fuse, but that was not the case. In my searching, however, I probed supply with my oscilloscope and found it first converted the incoming AC to 170 VDC. That part of the power supply worked fine. My roommate was going to discarded the power supply, but I asked to have it.

I used a high-speed rotary tool (a.k.a. Dremel) to cut off most of the circuit board leaving only the rectifying portion. I soldered two wires on the large filter capacitor and used jumper to connect the wires to a string of LED lights. Sure enough I had flicker-free LED lights.

My next task was to make a permanent fixture to house the converter. I used an electrical box with an outlet, and a zip-tie to hold the circuit in place.

The laptop power supply is rated for 100 watts, so it should be able to handle a substantial number of LEDs. This is a very cheap way to eliminate flicker and I am pleased with the results.

Completed Frame

Completed Frame

   With the frame glued and stained, it was time to lacquer.  The brand of lacquer I used recommended three coats with 2 hours of dry time between each coat.  So my evening was spent mostly designing my next frame while I waited for the frame to dry.
   The finished result are hard to capture.  The frame has a nice shine and exactly the color I had hoped to achieve.  The print I ordered is not scheduled to arrive until Tuesday of next week, so I will have to wait to use my new frame.

This weekend I got this idea that I wanted to build a picture frame. I've had a router for a year now and I've thought of a lot of projects but haven't done too many. So it's time to get on that. I only have a basic set of router bits, but enough to get my project started.

Unable to wait for a design, I went right away to my favorite home improvement store and browsed for the items I knew I was going to need. I've looked at the various hardwoods before, but until now I didn't have a project that needed them. Now had an excuse and surveyed my options like a little kid in a candy store. I settled on a nice 1”x2”x8' strip of unfinished oak.

Once back home I fired up Sketchup and worked out what my frame profile should look like with the router bits I have available. I settled on a profile that required 3 bits.


This profile uses a 5/32” Roman Orgee, a 1/2” roundover, and a 3/8” rabbeting bit.

Here is a sketch of what the frame should look like when I finish. It is setup to take a 12”x18” print with 3” of mat. The picture is one I took the other day and I felt it turned out well enough to frame for this experiment. The color the frame is roughly what I expect after staining.

The first cut I did was with the Roman Orgee—the smallest bit. I did this by hand with the wood held down by some quick-release grips. Despite trying to go slow I put some burn marks into the wood, but the cut went alright. The next bit was too big to fit on my router, but Xiphos has an old router table sitting in the basement. I had already played with it a little to see if I couldn't get it working. There are some parts missing, but I thought I should have enough to start. One item that was missing was the locking screw for adjusting the height of the router bit. I compensated by jamming wood under the table to achive the desired height. The first cut on the table was the 1/2” roundover which turned out beautifully. The 3/8” rabbeting bit on the other hand made a mess. The cut was made, but the edge was rather sloppy. Next time I won't use that bit.

After the router was finished I was quite pleased with the results—it looked frame worthy. I gave it a quick sanding and called it a night.

The following day (Monday) after work I got ready for the next part of the project. Being a little nervous about making mitering the cuts needed to turn the wood into a frame I decided to take no chances. I fired up Sketchup again, drew the board, and the locations of all the cuts—I even included the width of the saw blade because I wanted to make sure my measurements were right before I began cutting. After marking everything out on my board, I verified several measurements with my drawing. Only when everything was perfect did I proceed.

Our mitering saw at the house has a general construction blade. Since this was a test I wasn't too concerned about the cleanness of the cut, but nonetheless I made each cut very slowly—oak isn't the cheap pine I usually slice through.

My cuts were all good and I had a functional rectangle when I laid out the pieces. Assembling the pieces, however, was something I found to be more difficult than I had anticipated. I ended up leaving the project for the evening until I could come up with how I wanted to achieve the next part.

LEDs in a bottle

LEDs in a bottle

   Did a short day trip with Amber and Sean today, visiting some apple orchards and wineries.  One item I've seen before for sale are wine bottles with holiday lights inside.  I always thought they looked neat and I knew it was something I could make myself.  Today I picked up some glass drill bits and some LED holiday lights and made my own.  It turned out pretty good.