I was looking for a natural matte/satin finish for the Walnut so I went with Tried & True – Original Traditionnel. It’s food/environmentally safe, no VOCs, safe for skin, and made from renewable ingredients.
It contains Beeswax which offers some hardness and protection from water, and was perfect for a computer desk. The low odor/no vocs allowed me to finish it in my apartment as well. Ended up doing 3 coats, burnishing in-between each coat.
Wood was machine sanded, and then hand sanding up-to 220 before finishing. Put felt underneath the magnetic tray and computer monitor as added protection from scratches.
Huge thanks to my buddy Adrian Orozco for milling, assembling, and cutting everything! If you want a custom piece, use the link before to reach out:
I’ve been wanting to experiment with epoxy resin for awhile and I finally found some wildflowers from the local forest Preserve that I run in frequently. They made the perfect subject to create a balanced and visually stunning composition.
I also wanted to add a technical touch, so I embedded in the bottom layer of the epoxy a NFC chip. See the video below!
Fresh off of building PTSExplorer.com I had some inquires about building an adaption for a kiosk or exhibition. I was excited by the challenge and below is what I built in a night to show my vision of what that could look like.
The iPad app uses the didConnectNotification from UIScreen to detect when a secondary screen is connected, via HDMI or AirPlay. Once a second screen is detected at runtime I programmatically create another window with a root view controller from a storyboard.
One of my favorite things about the model train hobby is getting to experiment with my love for hardware and code. One day I was playing with a crossing system I bought from a big retailer and quickly became frustrated with its shortcomings, I literally had an “ah hah” moment when I realized I could create my own, pretty easily.
The video below describes in detail why I decided to build my own, and how I went about doing it. I go over different “activation methods” and why I chose to go with sonar over voltage or light.
One additional thing I did was add a BLE chip so I could control the whole system with my smart phone (luckily I know a good iOS developer to build the app).
Grossing Gates, Turnout, and Signal Bridge
Sonic sensors (HC-SR04)
NJI Crossing Gates (NJI 1164) & NJI dwarf
Adafruit Bluefruit LE UART Friend – Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
I really wanted a quick and secure way to get a breakdown of my spending without having to give up my banking details to a third-party. For the longest time I was using an excel spreadsheets and doing a lot of work manually to categorize transactions and compute totals. One day I decided to just build my own tool!
Chase’s developer API is invite only, so used their csv data dump option
Lots of pre-work happens before rendering the charts, data from csv is converted to objects, grouped by months, computed for totals/averages/etc., and then categorized by user inputted data
The transaction list allows me to flag what category a transaction should fall under – under similar transaction will automatically be assigned that category unless explicitly overwritten.
Using chart.js to render the charts – this framework is incredible and really easy to use
Below is a video of what I settled on for a v1. It does everything I need it to quickly, and makes understanding where I’m spending my money clear. Some future enhancements will include:
Monitor Chase’s API to see if it opens up for normal developers
Flag transactions that fall outside a specific variance (unexpected transactions)
Show top 5-10 places I’m spending money, e.g. how much money am I spending at Chipotle!
Add pagination for transactions list
Show YOY information and trends
Add ability to layer in a second account
Refactor code to reduce redundancies in calculations
PTS Explorer is a quick way to find instagram photos of a given PTS (paint to sample) color. A few months ago I noticed there were many Instagram accounts centered around PTS colors – this worked well to see many examples of different colors, but what if you didn’t know all the colors, or wanted to see many examples of a certain color?
These questions prompted me to create PTS Explorer.
Command for Mac is a [native] application I built to run DCC trains on my office layout. It works by using the USB Interface for Power Cab to bridge the gap from the computer to the NCE cab bus. The application uses the RS-232 serial interface to send hex commands to control the locomotives.
The application’s main interface can be accessed from the OS menu bar, this interface allows you to open the manage the connection, add/remove trains, and create new throttles.
Want to develop your own application? Hex command documentation can be found here.
I started working on a small HO DCS layout about a year ago and found it pretty complicated to find clear answers on wiring best practices. I would ask simple questions in train forums and get back long, complicated answers filled with personal opinion (I also found out that most people are or think they are electrical engineers, which I am certainly not!) and more times than not the answer didn’t address my question completely.
So this site is my attempt to list out anything I’ve learned over the past few months, as simple as I can put it. I will be updating this website as I go along, please feel free to ask me any questions or suggest any additional information, we’re all in this together.
• MTH HO PS3 engines require DC voltage.
• MTH TIU takes upto 24VDC, 10.0 AMPs. You can find a list of MTH recommened DC transformers here. I find it simpler to use a filtered DC power supply, right now I’m using a spare HP laptop power supply that puts out 19.5VDC 4.62A 90W (watts = volts * amps)
• Most Diesel engines take 0-24 VDC ~230 – 650mA, so look for a power supply with higher amperage output to run multiple trains at once.
• Only Fixed 1 and Fixed 2 can take DC power, and you must use Fixed 1 to power the TIU if you are not powering the TIU via the Auxiliary port. You can power the Auxiliary port with a power brick like Z-500 or Z-750 e.g. Variable Channels are AC only.
• PS3 Engines eliminate the need for a polarity switch on the engine and the engine can receive the command signal from either track (All MTH HO trains are PS3). Although the PS3 engine isn’t polarity sensitive, the TIU is, so make sure you have the right power connections at the TIU.
• PS3 engines require your TIU/Remote be upgraded to DCS version 4.20+
• You’ll often hear home run or star wiring in the DCS books, see the image below for a simple explanation:
Okay, let’s see some examples.
Simple Loop with Single Feeder
Large Loop with Multiple Feeders
Multiple Loops with 2 TIU Channels
Atlas Turnout with Circuitron Capacitor Discharge Unit
You can also skip the Capacitor Discharge Unit and hook the AC power right into the Snap Switch, however this is highly discouraged as it’s very common for the solenoid in the turnout to burnout if the switch is pressed for too long or gets stuck.
Atlas Turnout with Circuitron Capacitor Discharge Unit and Atlas Snap Relay controlling a NJI Dwarf