In the interest of holding myself accountable - and, presumably, in the interest of transparency - a few of the things I *really* want to get done before the end of the year:
- Setting up a semi-proper woodworking area in The Prepared’s workshop, which requires some light electrical work, a little construction, and a huge vinyl strip door to be installed.
- Building a table saw outfeed & woodworking bench a la Ron Paulk, but with some industrial-ish flair (the plywood sawhorses are clever, but not super convenient for my purposes).
- Setting up this newsletter’s guest writing calendar for 2021, a task I’m now about a week behind on and which would benefit from your feedback, if you’ve got any.
- Making a lightweight but reusable crate for our assembly house to ship The Public Radio’s PCBAs down to us in NYC - something I finally started hacking on last week.
- Finishing up an essay I began in April - the completion of which would validate the idea that, yes, writing is indeed an important part of my professional life.
This is, of course, way too much work to squeeze into three weeks; I hope you all are planning a little more realistically than I am :)
The most clicked link from last week's issue (~22% of opens) was the hori hori, but honestly you should just browse all of our favorite tools of 2020 if you missed it.
Planning & Strategy.
- Design for redesignability (DFR) is the practice of assuming that your contract manufacturer will redesign anything you send them anyway, so you may as well leave some of the details vague. It’s apparently common in the toy industry, where the volume of injection molded parts is high and tooling cost is too.
- An evocative and informative (some good engineering minutiae here) cultural history of plexiglass. “Pandemic plexiglass is deployed as part of a preventative, conservative practice, a means of maintaining social and biological order that, in turn, promises epidemiological and economic resilience. Yet the plexi shields and hoods are little more than the architectural equivalents of hydroxychloroquine, snake oil neatly packaged in capsules and vials — jury-rigged shells mocked up so that we can keep working and consuming and pretending that social space hasn’t split open at its long-deepening fault lines; that the worker on the far side of the screen isn’t standing there all day, at risk. These anti-glare barriers allow us to look right through to a seemingly familiar quotidian, denying the need for long-haul adaptation. They’re a temporary accommodation, like an umbrella, to be put away when the sun comes out again.”
Making & Manufacturing.
- I’m reading Trapped Under the Sea, an incredibly suspenseful book about Boston’s Deer Island outfall tunnel, and the deaths of two divers sent ten miles into a one-way tunnel to remove safety caps from a series of risers once construction was complete.
- The NYTimes visits and photographs the Martin guitar factory, which is probably the first factory I ever had an inkling to visit. The specialized tooling is pretty great; I was also curious that they use a laser to cut the tops, backs, and sides of their guitars’ bodies, especially as I’m thinking of lasering my first plywood & MDF parts this week. See also Nervous System’s Jesse Louis-Rosenberg on their laser cutter’s air assist, and the laminar flow nozzle he made to improve cut quality in plywood.
- A video of acrylic orthodontic retainers being made via the “salt and pepper” (monomer and polymer) method.
- Virginia Postrel on EconTalk discussing textile manufacturing. Before the industrial revolution, it took 24 labor hours to make *the thread* in a single bandana.
- A pretty amazing Twitter thread containing videos of produce being harvested. My favorites are pineapple, turnips, and a pecan tree being shaken.
Maintenance, Repair & Operations.
- Korean Air’s stop-motion LEGO video showing their COVID cleaning operations.
- Two video angles of the Arecibo telescope’s collapse, synchronized.
Distribution & Logistics.
- Planet Money on vaccine distribution, the borosilicate glass and dry ice supply chains, and how the cargo holds in commercial aircraft are actually the best way to distribute vaccines.
- A practical guide for spotting used space hardware (Falcon 9 boosters, Dragon capsules, etc) as they return to Port Canaveral by boat.
- The 14,000 TEU Japanese ship ONE Apus encountered heavy weather in the middle of the Pacific on its way to Long Beach, and 1900 containers are now missing at sea - perhaps the largest loss ever outside of full vessel sinking. “The annual average number of containers lost at sea around the world for the years 2017 through 2019 numbered 779, according to the World Shipping Council.”
Inspection, Testing & Analysis.
- A video of a *totally* amazing DIY desktop wind tunnel, replete with a smoke injector system that runs off of an e-cigarette 🤯 Disclaimer: I am long on wind tunnels.
- The Encyclopedia Arctica is a 15-volume unpublished reference work on the arctic, compiled by theologian and explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson. Commissioned in the 1940s by the Office of Naval Research, it ran at “3 or 4 million words” when it was abruptly cancelled. Come for the section on effects of extreme arctic cold on materials, I say, and stay for the power plant development and electrical transmission and distribution systems. See also the extensive section on arctic skin on frame boats, which includes references to the baidarka (a beautiful example of which I linked to in 2020-07-06).
- A quick gif of nails being aligned by an electromagnetic aligner prior to boxing.
- A *very* high quality twitter thread on all of the unsolved engineering problems in sand physics today, written partly in response to the Randall Munroe piece I linked to in 2020-11-23.