Monday, November 29, 2021


     I needed to bore a 7/8" hole in the top of my nightstand, so I could permanently mount the "microphone boom" that holds my Kindle so I can fall asleep reading without breaking my nose.  I've been using the clamp-mount base for years and I keep promising myself I'll make it permanent.

      Okay, down to basement workshop to find tools for the job. H'mm, it's "engineered bamboo," which is like hardwood plywood, so a Forstner bit will be unhappy. I'm not going to risk my century+ old softwood auger bits from Vonnegut Hardware, but here in the "worn-used" collection is an Irwin-type auger bit with a fine-pitch leadscrew for hardwood, and another.... I needed a 7/8" and sure enough, there was one stamped "14." I dug out a small file; couldn't find the special paddle-shaped file for auger bits. A Japanese-type "feather file" was a good substitute, and in a few minutes, I had a nice, sharp bit, ready to go.

      Upstairs, boring with brace and bit, I had to use a small block of wood on the underside of the nightstand top, so the leadscrew could pull the auger bit all the way through, and as it cleared, it struck me what an incredible debt I owe my to Dad and to two men I never met: Eric Sloane and Alfred P. Morgan.

      Mr. Morgan was a prolific writer of "How-To" books, especially for young people. His books were my introduction to electronics and to building things. Mr. Sloane was a tool collector and wrote many books. Both of them illustrated their own work and both were early aviation enthusiasts. And both of them, like my Dad, were very much interested in sharing the whys and hows of doing things. Without them, I would never have learned that old augers are marked by their size in 16ths of an inch or the difference between hardwood and softwood augers; without them, I would never have known how to sharpen a dull auger, or even how to properly bore a hole with a brace and bit.

      Thanks to them, it was a quick, simple task -- and thanks to them, I cleaned up the tools and put them away properly afterward, too.

      None of the three is still around to thank. Two of them have left us plenty of good information. Alfred P. Morgan and Eric Sloane both have extensive Wikipedia entries and many of their books are still in print or available as scans.


Educated Savage said...

Eric Sloan's books are worth the money just for the illustrations. He wrote a couple of others on the weather and one called "Eric Sloan's America". They're still in print as far as I know.

Cop Car said...

It is wonderful that you had such effective mentoring, and that you've gone on to make good use of it. It is a shame that we humans seldom have complete appreciation for what our elders have contributed to our lives, while they are still living.

At age 83, with parents dead for 32 and 27 years, I still find times when I use what I learned from them - and wish to tell them that I appreciate their wisdom and help. Most of what I learned from my parents was from osmosis/observation. To a somewhat lesser extent, the same observation goes for things I learned from other relatives/friends/teachers/barely-knew-thems/strangers.

Doug Hornby said...

It is a shame that bamboo has an undeserved reputation for being tough, hard and difficult to work with. The only quality mentioned that is correct is "tough to work with". Bamboo is soft, easily damaged and pretty. Machine toughening gives it limited usage, as flooring it sucks, as a cutting board it sucks (literally and figuratively), it is however inexpensive.

Roberta X said...

Doug, raw bamboo may be soft (not as soft as pine) but the glued-up stuff my nightstand is made of is pretty hard, not much softer than Garolite. It's a lot harder than the pine and poplar I build most furniture from. (I would have made the nightstand myself, but the price was hard to beat and it was exactly the right size.) I don't know just what they used to bond it together, but it wasn't Elmer's.

The auger made a nice, clean-edged hole in it, with no tear-out.

Cop Car said...

My massive chest of drawers and night table are bamboo. I'm not sure that I could dent them with my sledge hammer - or mar whatever the finish on them is. No way could I have built any piece of furniture!

Ygolonac said...

Details on your phone stand? Sounds like just the thing I need for flaking out on the bed, but I'm running a bigger tablet (12.2" Samsung Note Pro) with an Otterbox case (minus the big front armor), and am kinda wondering about how much weight it can handle, and the thickness (because of the case).

In penance for this sidebar, I shall take it even further off-topic with another retro zoomie thing:

Again, no clickcash or referrals or whatever to me, just "hey, this looks like something for Roberta X".

Roberta X said...

Ygolonac, my nightstand is probably the last thing you want. As-sold, it's flimsy, a skeletonized engineered-bamboo frame with reinforced fabric drawers. I added short masonite sides (to hold an outlet strip and keep it from being too much a dust collector) and a 7" tall board across the back of it just above floor level to stabilize it, as well as using L-brackets inside the frame at the top to fasten it to the extended headboard of my bed. With all that, it's pretty sturdy, and spared me the fiddly work of making drawers. Unfortunately, the cats think the cloth fronts make a good scratching post, so I'll be building drawers eventually.

Do an Amazon search for "mDesign Vertical Dresser Storage Tower - 4 Drawers - Sturdy Bamboo Frame with Easy Pull Fabric Bins - Multi-Bin Organizer for Bedroom, Hallway, Entryway, Closets - Espresso Brown/Natural Wood" and you'll find it.

Ygolonac said...

Uhm, I meant the boom-arm unit. :D I've got a 1960's Sears headboard that could probably be used to batter down doors - I could probably sleep on top of that if it wasn't so narrow. (Or if I were narrower, but that's unlikely to happen at this late date.)

Thanks for the info, though, might pass it along if I run into someone looking for that kind of hardware. (I'm a horrible bachelor, if I didn't have that headboard I'd probably just get the sturdiest, cheapest thing from the thrift store or a stack of milk crates or something LOL.)

Roberta X said...

Oh, the Kindle gadget! That's a Rode mic arm (or similar) plus a widget made of off-the shelf parts. I wrote it up nine years ago. It holds a small e-reader or an iPad Mini.

Ygolonac said...

Hah! Awesome... I've just been trawling Amazon for arm-units for tablets and finding: 1) can't handle the size; 2) can't handle the weight; 3) breathe on it and it moves/vibrates; 4) breathe on it and it breaks (or sure looks like it will); 5) multiple choice.

(I was seriously just checking straight-up monitor arms - a bit overkill, can't quite get the multiaxis adjustments as far as I'd like, especially the horizontal tilt, and I'd still have to hack together a mount for the tablet itself.)

Didn't even think to try mic mounts; immediately found one that'll do 3.3 pounds, so it's just finding the actual grabber solution.


Roberta X said...

Ygolonac, those spring-balanced mic arms are available for a wide range of weights (and prices), right up to ones that will hold the heavy old RCA mics (44 and 77) from before WW II. The trick is finding something to attach to them to hold a reader/pad device. Most of them seem to be designed to clamp onto a vertical microphone stand, and nine years ago, I ended up making my own. I'll be interested in what you find.

Don't go too cheap on the mic stand; the bottom-end priced ones are flimsy. The medium-priced imports are pretty good and the best sold ready to hold smartphones will *barely* grab an 8" Kindle or iPad across the narrow dimension in the gripper. I have one of those for the futon in the living room

Ygolonac said...

Picked out an InnoGear boom with 1/4" screw for the mic, and both 1/4"-to-3/8" and 3/8"-to-5/16" adapters, so I've got some extra options if needed. Gripper is a ChargerCity tripod mount, which gives me rotation, but more importantly, the "tines" that hold are sized enough to handle the Samsung even with the Otterbox. No tilt, but if I can't wrangle it with the boom arm, I should be able to find a tilt mechanism that will fit between the boom screw and the tripod mount. (Huh, ballhead mount for GoPro-type cameras would do fine, would just need to dig around and find one that could take the tripod-head screw, since if you're using a tripod you probably have tilt available already, thus the quick search brings up clamp-ones for handlebars and the like.)

Kind of embarrassing that I didn't think this out over the long weekend, when I kept cussing out the tablet for falling over every time I moved...