Build a ZOOM box / prompter to look straight into the camera.

Don’t you hate it when you’re on a video conference and the other person is staring up, down, sideways… every direction other than straight at you?

This little box fixes all that.

I built it in a few hours, using nothing more than some cheap MDF, aluminium angle, some glass, cardboard, and a salvaged monitor stand.

Then I slotted in a little screen, and a USB camera. I plugged the screen into my computer as an external monitor, and the camera as a USB input.

Now I have a dedicated camera/screen for zoom calls, and it works with any other video conference software as well.

The other thing you can do with this setup is to put a script up on the screen, and read it while you record from the USB camera – you will be looking straight at your audience!

Mirror or Picture Stand for Renters

As a renter, I cannot drill holes in the wall to hold this heavy Mexican Mirror.

So I built a leaning “A-Frame” stand from square steel tube, and it’s almost invisible.

The trick in designing a stand like this is to make sure the “toes” that touch the floor are quite some distance from the wall – this forces the top to lean back into the wall and it won’t fall over.

To hold it together, I used random bolts that I had lying around, some off-the-shelf brackets and angles, and a couple of old feet from a previous IKEA project. Luckily, the landlord had left a pot of wall paint for touch ups and repairs – so I used that to match the wall colour exactly.

This turned out to be a quick one-day project, and I am really happy with the result.

My original concept design. I changed the height of the cross piece

Restoring Grandpas Little Oil Can

I always liked the look and feel of this little oil can.

My Dad inherited it from his Dad, and now I found it in a box of rusty old stuff.

My first thought was to bring it all back to polished bare metal, but that just didn’t look right, so I painted it with a blue hammered finish.

This was a simple project, but I took my time and enjoyed the process of brushing away the old paint, sanding, reshaping with a mallet, replacing the seal (which was probably originally made of leather) and finally painting it.

I love the way it turned out.

Except – it has to be the absolutely worst oil can I have ever used! It dribbles, spurts, and leaks no matter what I do. Maybe it’s designed for much thicker oil (I filled it with cutting fluid which might be too thin).

In any event – this is a great way to spend an afternoon in the workshop.

Side Tables with 240v and USB power outlets

My family visits with a bunch of digital devices – phones, iPad, and hand held game systems.

I built a set of side tables for the living room sofa – so they can sit down, plug in, and enjoy the visit !

I also added 240v for all the other power bricks and assorted 21st century necessities.

I only used hand tools (oh, plus a cheap router that I bought for the project) to make these.

I bought an 850W Router

I have always avoided using a router. 

They just seem to be sharp and unpredictable. I imagine they’d run amok and slice me up.

Apparently not. I bought this cheap 850W plunge router and put it together without incident.

I had a specific project in mind – which required making a lot of grooves in a cupboard frame, to fit plywood panels – so I finally relented and decided that I needed a router after all – despite all the dangers, imaginary or real.

I had to do a bit of experimenting with setting up jigs and clamps to position the grooves in a predictable and consistent placement, but once that was sorted, this new tool just worked exactly as advertised.

I did break one router bit very early on – this was because I had the speed too low and then had to push sideways too hard on the bit, to make any progress. Once I turned up the speed, the new bit worked without incident.

How to modify an office chair seat

This was a 3 hour project, where I modified a gaming chair into a flatter seat for home office use.

What I hope you will learn from this video is that the mysteries of chair construction and upholstery don’t remain mysterious once you just dive in and take off the coverings.

This sort of project only requires very basic hand tools – I used a screwdriver, pliers, scissors, hacksaw, and some water pipe. (And a cheap angle grinder but the hacksaw would have worked)

And what you learn here can be applied to other sorts of upholstery like reshaping and recovering a motorcycle seat. Or car seats.

Deconstructing a microwave

Finding microwave ovens on the side of the road is easy.

But what can you find inside one?

There’s all sorts of wiring, micro switches, motors, and magnets. The door has a sheet of glass, and some cool punched metal sheet. And there’s the always useful sheet metal of the body.

I’m planning to build a spot welder from the transformers out of a couple of microwave ovens — they’re configured for high voltage, but I’ll reconfigure them for low voltage, high amperes.

Nespresso Carrier – a tote box for taking our coffee machine on road trips

Sick of second-rate coffee in hotels and motels?

I built this simple box for your espresso machine to take one of our favourite and essential luxuries of home with us.

The box construction is dead simple – some 6mm marine ply, bolted together with aluminium angle.

It’s ridiculously simple to modify for any shape or size, and it’s really strong.

For this purpose, I lined the inside with EVA foam sheet to protect the Nespresso machine, and to position it perfectly on the base.

I oiled the timber (partly because I only finished about an hour before we headed off on a road trip) but you could obviously use paint or any other finish that takes your fancy.

Soft Vice Jaws

My bench vice has knurled steel jaws. That’s kinda rough when you want to hold soft materials like aluminium, brass, or plastic in the vice.

I converted an old kitchen chopping board into a couple of drop-in vice jaws, as a quick solution to the problem.

Not perfect, not pretty, but definitely functional.

This was a 30 minute project.