Feinstein’s latest overreach

Last week, Senator Feinstein introduced S.1916, a bill in response to the Las Vegas attack, the text of which only recently became available through Congress.gov. Here’s the meat of the proposal:

Except as provided in paragraph (2), on and after the date that is 180 days after the date of enactment of this subsection, it shall be unlawful for any person to import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, a trigger crank, a bump-fire device, or any part, combination of parts, component, device, attachment, or accessory that is designed or functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle but not convert the semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun.

The key phrase here is “functions to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle”. Wording of phrases is key.

And here’s the problem with Feinstein’s wording: no minimum floor is specified on how much the rifle’s rate of fire is to be accelerated, or a minimum threshold the new fire rate is to reach for it to be a violation of this law. Which means any modification that allows for a demonstrable increase in the rate of fire could qualify.

Want to swap out the trigger group on a prefab AR-15 for a faster trigger? Well, better not if this bill is enacted into law. Same if you build your AR-15, then later decide to upgrade the trigger.

The bill amends 18 USC § 922(a)(6) to define the above-quoted prohibition. And adds a reference to the proposed section to 18 USC § 924(a)(2) to define the penalty: up to 10 years in prison and fines as authorized by law.

Feinstein or the Senate via amendment could easily alleviate this concern by placing outside its scope any modification that still requires human power to actuate.

Paragraph 2 exempts the Federal, State, and local governments. Which raises the question: if “no one needs” bump stocks, which anti-gun advocates were espousing in the wake of Las Vegas, why does the “no one” seem to never include the government and military?

Update: I’m not the only one realizing that Feinstein’s bill intentionally extends beyond her desire to ban bump stocks.

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On improving our situation regarding firearms

This is a comment I left on a Huffington Post article called “I Have A Mental Illness And A Gun License. Here’s What I Think Of Gun Reform.” by Thom Dunn. I may write a response to this article at a later time, or at least the points where I have disagreement.

* * * * *

The biggest thing hampering any conversation on firearms and reforms is the complete ignorance of those who want the reforms. Not just of firearms and terminology, but the current laws and regulations. Until they overcome that ignorance, and stop taking a “worst first” mentality on everything related to firearms, we’ll continue to be at a stalemate.

Gun rights advocates won’t give ground because they know many at the upper-echelons of the gun control groups want a full-out ban and are willing to work slowly to get it. Even on the one area where we do need reform: the NICS background check system.

A lot of gun control advocates act like background checks will catch everyone — I see that implication A LOT — while not understanding the two primary limitations of the system: 1. it’s only as good as the information available to it, and 2. only persons who’ve been through due process can be listed there (see the Due Process Clause). On point 1 we absolutely can improve. And should.

But we still need to be realistic in its limitations. Would that better information have stopped the LV shooter? No. Would it have stopped the mass shooters in recent years? Maybe the Charleston shooter, but that’s it.

In an open letter regarding their lawsuit against Lucky Gunner, the family who sued them said that Lucky Gunner had a responsibility to make sure the people they were selling to weren’t dangerous killers. This implies they expect gun and ammo sellers and the background check system to be psychic or precognant in nature. No system can be, yet that appears to be what’s demanded.

Again, we need to be realistic about the limitations. We can not stop all mass killings — even Australia shows this — just as law enforcement can’t solve all crimes and catch all perpetrators. But, again, that seems to be what’s expected and demanded.

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Breeding fear

Firearms are both exciting and terrifying. Depending on the person, they’ll either command respect and awe for the marvels of engineering they are, or they’ll be shunned by fearful people who’d rather they never existed.

And it seems to be primarily those in the latter camp writing the articles in the media about firearms. Reports not driven by knowledge and respect, but fear and ignorance. It is, thus, not surprising their reports are wrong a lot of the time. In many cases, it seems as if the writer is literally making shit up and not bothering to do any fact checking.

Andy Greenberg is no different with his article on Wired about a new advance in “ghost guns”, or firearms that don’t bear a serial number.

There is a predominant “worst first” mentality in these media reports on firearms. And it isn’t just with firearms, mind you, that this mentality appears. I’ve pointed it out with, of all things, flirting. And Lenore Skenazy has made a career out of pointing it with regard to parenting.

With the recent tragedy in Las Vegas, and the reporting and demonstrated ignorance that has stemmed from that, I guess I can’t be surprised anymore, given the times (here, here, here, here, here, and here) where I’ve called out the media for getting something so drastically wrong.

“80% lowers”

This latest advance in “ghost guns” involves 80% lower receivers. Specifically a frame for an M1911 pistol.

An 80% lower is typically seen with AR-15s, and can be purchased without going through an FFL as they are not regulated as a “firearm”. The reason is quite simple: you can’t just buy it and build a firearm from it.

The “80%” label means you need to complete it. Typically this involves a drill press (not something to try with a hand drill) and several different drill bits. And the intended holes have to be precisely drilled and machined or the completed firearm may not function safely. There are jigs and kits available to make this easier.

On an AR-15, the lower receiver “receives” the trigger group, safety, magazine retention (the magazine well is part of its structure), pistol grip, and stock. The upper receiver holds the barrel, bolt carrier group (BCG) and charging handle (CH), and also has a rail for mounting a rear sight, scope, or red dot sight. The lower and upper receivers are attached by two thick pins.

A completed lower receiver is the only part of an AR-15 kit that is required by the ATF to have a serial number. Transfers require an NIST background check when sold by an FFL. It can also be transferred between two non-FFL parties through a private transfer without a background check.

Completed AR-15 lowers manufactured without a serial number, such as a lower purchased as an 80% and completed by the purchaser, by law, cannot be transferred at all. And any AR-15 rifle completed from a completed 80% lower also cannot be transferred. It is a Federal felony to transfer such firearms and lower receivers.

Defense Distributed and 80% Lowers

The focus of Greenberg’s article is Defense Distributed. The name may sound familiar as they are the originator of the “Liberator”, a 3D printed, single-shot .22LR pistol. They are also manufacturer the “Ghost Gunner“, which is a glorified CNC machine designed to assist in finishing an 80% lower.

Specifically their 80% lowers. The article focuses on the 1911 pistol, one of the lowers that Defense Distributed sells.

Currently you can buy a complete lower frame for a 1911 pistol if you wish to assemble your own. They aren’t inexpensive, though. Like AR-15 lowers, quality will vary based on price. And adding onto that may be any FFL-related fees if you order it online, along with having to submit to an NICS background check and fill out the ATF 4473 paperwork.

Now one thing that needs to be emphasized, since it’s so often overlooked and drastically misrepresented as part of the “worst first” mentality I’ve pointed out: the frame is not the firearm. It is just one part of the entire 1911. You still need EVERYTHING ELSE! All the pins and springs, slide and trigger assembly, firing pin assembly in the slide, safety assemblies, recoil spring assemblies, barrel, grips. And I’m sure I’m missing something.

Yes you can buy those parts without a background check since they are typically sold as replacement parts. Most of the more easily-replaced parts can be found at gun stores without difficulty. A couple years ago, I replaced the recoil spring on a Smith & Wesson pistol. I was able to order that recoil spring online and have it sent to my home. No questions asked. Because it’s just a spring!

But — and this is something often sorely missed by the “worst first” crowd — buying all those parts separately will, in the end, cost you more than a fully-assembled 1911 obtained through a background check. I paid under 500 USD for the 1911 I currently own, and it’s a “commander”-size model.

And then there’s the time needed to assemble it. It won’t go together quickly. Building a 1911 isn’t like building an AR-15 from parts. It’s a lot more involved. As Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed put it:

If the AR is like Legos, the 1911 is like a model ship. If you’re a gangster at home trying to build one, you’ve bought a problem for yourself more than you’ve solved one.

The only reason someone would go through the hassle of buying all the parts separately is the same reason to buy the parts and build an AR-15: getting a custom firearm without changing out parts. It’s actually the same reason people build personal computers from parts.

The overstated threat of “ghost guns”

So then, where does that leave the prospect of “ghost guns”? Let’s just say it’s not nearly the threat Greenberg is making it out to be.

Of course, Wilson’s machine could also help customers who otherwise wouldn’t legally be able to obtain a gun—minors, people with a mental disorder, or those with a criminal record—obtain one. California, in fact, already outlawed so-called “ghost guns”—homemade firearms without serial numbers—last summer. But no such law exists at the federal level, allowing anyone to bypass virtually all gun control laws if they make a gun at home and don’t sell it or give it away.

Not all gun control laws are bypassed.

For one, “ghost guns” cannot be sold or given away legally. Again the transfer of a firearm not bearing a proper serial number is a Federal felony.

And as many gun control advocates in the “ban bullets” crowd love to point out, a firearm is useless without ammunition. And the laws regarding ammunition purchases still apply. And persons prohibited under Federal law from buying a firearm are also prohibited from buying ammunition.

If you honestly think gangs and cartels are going to start buying these kits to build 1911s instead of buying them or obtaining them through other lesser-legal channels, I think you’ve let the media get too far into your head.

Like most fears of the “worst first” gun control crowd, the fears around ghost guns are largely not going to come to fruition.

Let’s start with the Ghost Gunner’s near 1700 USD price tag.

You’ll also need some kind of system for collecting the aluminum shards that’ll be coming off it if you don’t already have one. Your home vacuum won’t be optimal here. A 2-stage system would be best to separate the aluminum shards so they don’t go into the vacuum at all.

Then it’s 120 USD for each 1911 “80%” frame that will then need to be milled with the machine. Add on the other parts and you’re approaching, if not exceeding, 2500 USD.

Beyond that, again, is the time needed to assemble the firearm from all the parts plus the new frame.

The people who are willing to go through all of that just to get a 1911 when it’s far easier and far less expensive to obtain one through both legal and lesser-legal channels are likely people you either don’t need to fear, or they are already on military or law enforcement radar in some capacity.

And there is, thus far, no indication such firearms have been used in any homicides or crimes in the United States. Or where they have, it’s such a small occurrence to not be worth the concern.

Again, the problem of “ghost guns” is vastly overstated and based only on speculation.

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Unlimited power

The power of the Presidential pardon is in the news. Apparently Robert Mueller has tasked one of his advisors to research “every legal precedent and limitation to the power of a presidential pardon”. The research isn’t very involved. It’s actually just one (1) Supreme Court case, specifically, with others merely reaffirming it. I’ll summarize it here shortly.

The pardon comes from the Constitution at Article II, Section 2:

[H]e shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

“Cases of impeachment” means only that the President cannot use his pardon power to keep an Executive Branch official from being impeached or reverse the effect of any conviction on impeachment. Impeachment is purely an act of Congress. Pardons extend only to actions subject to indictment and prosecution. And the President of the United States can only pardon those who are subject to Federal prosecution or court martial within the national Armed Forces.

One writer at Blue Dot Daily, however, seems to have a particularly interesting take on the matter:

The very first federal pardon Trump hands out will immediately set off a chain of events, starting with Dreeben getting in front of the Supreme Court, where he will undoubtedly win against Trump pardons, and at that moment there will be a legal precedent on the record.

As soon as Mueller and Dreeben win their first court battle, it will then mean Trump can’t pardon himself out of trouble on any level.

And earlier in the article, the writer tries to say that certain questions of the President’s pardon power have not been “Constitutionally established”:

It’s actually never even been Constitutionally established whether or not the president can pardon people to motivate them not to testify against him.

It also hasn’t been established if the president can pardon his own family members, or himself. Why? because no other president in history has even tried these things, so there is no legal precedent to determine if the president can do it, but that’s about to change.

Except it already has been established. From Ex parte Garland, 71 US 333 (1866) at 334, point 9:

The power of pardon conferred by the Constitution upon the President is unlimited except in cases of impeachment. It extends to every offence known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment. The power is not subject to legislative control.

Unlimited.

The President can pardon anyone he wants of any actions potentially or actually subject to Federal criminal indictment, prosecution, or conviction. No such pardon may be challenged in Court, and the power cannot be limited by Congress.

The long tradition of pardons in the United States and Great Britain is to give the executive, the President and the Monarch, respectively, broad authority to enact reprieves, commutations, and pardons, both conditional and not. And such authority under the Constitution is granted to the President without any limitation except that which is expressly found within the Constitution. Of which there is only one express limitation, leaving the exercise of the President’s pardoning power without any other limit, as has been repeatedly ruled by the Supreme Court of the United States.

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Dear PayPal Credit

Continuing on my trend of posting publicly when I have an issue with a company, this time it’s PayPal in the crosshairs. I’ve been a PayPal member since… forever. I think 2000 is when I opened my PayPal account. And I’ve never had any issues. And this post isn’t about PayPal, but PayPal Credit. Some background, first.

On June 30 I bought a couple coins from a friend and paid her via PayPal through my PayPal Credit account, knowing it would be treated as a cash advance since the friend doesn’t have a business account. Two weeks later, when the statement closed, I made a payment large enough that the cash advance should’ve been taken care of, along with another expiring promotional balance.

Except the payment was credited in a way that it eliminated only part of the promotional balance. And PayPal appears to be bouncing the remaining amount between billing cycles, refusing to credit my payments in such a way to eliminate that.

After noticing my most recent payment was also not credited in a way to eliminate the cash advance (doing some math on the remaining promotional balances), I wrote into PayPal’s customer service basically asking “what the hell is going on”?

I’m trying to figure out something with regard to my PayPal Credit account.

On June 30, I sent a payment from my PayPal Credit account to a friend with the total amount charged to my account being [REDACTED]. The next billing statement on July 15 reflected a minimum payment “to avoid Standard and Deferred Interest” of [REDACTED], which was fully expected given the [REDACTED] and an expiring promotional balance. And under “PayPal Send Money Cash Advances” for the statement ending July 14, it shows the [REDACTED] transaction.

I made a payment for [REDACTED] even. I thought the payment would be credited in such a fashion that the [REDACTED] amount would be cleared out first since it was an interest-bearing balance with the rest applied to promotional balances. That is not what happened.

Looking at the statement for the period ending August 14, I was given a minimum payment “to avoid Standard and Deferred Interest” of [REDACTED], which shows that only [REDACTED] was applied to the cash advance amount of [REDACTED]. I made a payment on August 15 of [REDACTED]. The cash advance balance of [REDACTED] was, again, not eliminated by that payment, as reflected by the statement for the period ending September 14 which again showed the cash advance balance of [REDACTED].

And with the payment I made yesterday, September 15, it appears the payment, once again, was not applied to eliminate the cash advance. It was, instead, applied only to promotional balances.

Why is that [REDACTED] still being held on my account and not being eliminated with any payments? Why was it not eliminated back with the July 15 payment as I originally expected it would be?

Or will that balance instead be bounced around until I bring the PayPal Credit balance down to 0?

I’m hoping the issue is merely a problem in their software and it’s something they can easily adjust. Basically it would require adding the cash advance amount back to a promotional balance that doesn’t expire until November, and then eliminating the cash advance balance from the account. Or advising me on how my next payment can be made in such a way the promotional balance is eliminated and not just bounced between billing cycles, always hanging over my head.

The interesting thing about this as well is that PayPal, thankfully, is not assessing interest on that outstanding cash advance. I would’ve written in with the next billing statement if they did that. But that also tells me it’s a glitch in their system since all of this is automated with virtually no manual review unless an issue comes up.

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Mr Obama, respectfully, shut up

Link: Statement from Obama about DACA

Mr President,

Your predecessor openly refused to criticize you, your administration, and your policies, saying this in March 2009:

He deserves my silence. There’s plenty of critics in the arena. I think it’s time for the ex-president to tap dance off the stage and let the current president have a go at solving the world’s problems.

You are aware of this unwritten rule. Former Presidents are to not criticize, second guess, or undermine the decisions and actions of a sitting President and his administration.

Yet you have been refusing to show the same deference and respect to your successor. Regardless of what you think of any of his policy ideas, you know it is beyond inappropriate for you, as a former President, to levy criticism. Just as it would be equally inappropriate for Bill Clinton, George H.W. or George W. Bush, or Jimmy Carter to levy any criticism against Trump and his policies. Just as it would’ve been inappropriate for any of them to levy criticism against you while you were serving as President.

You were aware even before making the above statement that it is beyond inappropriate. Yet you made it anyway. And you’ve made others before it as well.

Show your successor the same deference and respect your predecessors have shown you. You are no longer the President of the United States. To borrow on the words of your predecessor, it is time for you to exit the stage.

Again your predecessor held his tongue with you. Just as Clinton held his tongue with Bush. And other previous Presidents have held their tongues with their successors. Hold your tongue with your successor. That is the appropriate course.

Yet something tells me you won’t take it. In which case, you’ll show yourself to be due significantly less respect than your predecessors.

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Portable Raspberry Pi music player

On the road it’s nice to have your collection of music standing by to plug into your car.

For that I’ve typically relied on a 16GB iPhone 3GS. My vehicle is a 2011 Chevrolet Equinox. I can plug my iPhone into it and see at least the song title on the display, though I can’t control playback from the dash and steering wheel controls. But 16GB is not enough storage for my music collection anymore.

To pour salt into that wound, I’ve been re-ripping mine and my wife’s entire CD collection to the NAS as FLACs using Exact Audio Copy and the FLAC command-line utility. My CD collection has also expanded in recent months as I’ve decided to buy the physical CDs for any music I’ve previously bought and downloaded through iTunes or any other online service. I prefer having direct control over that where possible and typically have.

But even if I re-ripped the CDs to 320kbps MP3 for better audio quality (which I also considered but chose FLAC for being lossless), 16GB is still not enough room.

Thankfully storage options are very, very cheap right now. As in a 128GB USB 3.0 flash drive is around 40 USD depending on brand and seller. And the prices are similar for microSD cards as well — this 128GB Samsung EVO Select card is 45 USD as of when I write this.

And as you can tell from the article title, I didn’t just buy a microSD card, stick it into my phone, copy off all my music to it, and call it a day. So let’s get into what I actually did, starting with the parts.

The Raspberry Pi does not support the larger microSD cards, for those who might be wondering. The slot is microSDHC, which supports 32GB at most. And no, that’s not enough to hold my music collection, even without taking the operating system into account.

So I would need a USB drive for the audio tracks. And the Samsung Fit lineup is a very low-profile USB drive. It won’t stick out from the end of the Raspberry Pi, avoiding the risks thereof. Now while the RPi doesn’t support USB 3.0, it’s nice having that speed for the initial copy of the music to the drive from my NAS. Plus 128GB USB 2.0 low-profile flash drives don’t exist.

Now 128GB is overkill for my music collection, but 64GB would be cutting it close with everything encoded as FLACs and my desire to acquire still more CDs in the near future and prefer CDs down the road. Currently with still not everything yet ripped to files, my music collection has so far exceeded 52GB as of when I write this.

So now, what about the operating system? There are plenty of options available. Notice in the parts list above that I did not include a touchscreen. This means that any of the Kodi distributions are out of the question since the device will be run headless.

That leaves pretty much just one option: Volumio.

Volumio can run as a “hotspot” using the RPi3’s built-in wireless. This means you can control the music playback, volume, etc., with your phone’s browser by connecting to Volumio’s hotspot. Just make sure to change the default password and SSID.

For an enclosure, bear in mind the RPi3 is known to get warm under load, so consider an option that includes or supports a fan. You at least need one with ventilation.

I went with the Zebra Virtue Black Ice by C4Labs for it’s included 40mm 5V fan. It is also not any larger than the Pi, keeping everything compact. And the fan is LOUD. And it has a particular high pitch to its noise profile. I highly doubt that C4Labs searched high and low to find the quietest 40mm fan available as they claim. The fan included with mine is the Yofolon DC4010S05L, which according to one source is rated at ~24dB/A and ~5.5CFM.

However the noise can be alleviated quite easily by splitting the connector from the wires and plugging the red wire into Pin 1 and the black wire (ground) into Pin 6. This runs the fan at 3.3V, making it much quieter.

With everything assembled, it was a matter of loading up the music and making playlists. Then plugging it into my car’s stereo.

For power, you can use either a portable or a car charger. Just make sure to get one that supports at least the 2.5A the Raspberry Pi requires. And if you use a car charger, you will likely need to use an audio cable with a noise filter to prevent audio interference.

Now my one gripe with Volumio: embedded album art. Volumio will not display album art that is embedded into the FLAC and MP3 files. And the developers refuse to add (or add back in) support for that, citing performance. So for now I’m just can’t have album art displayed in the UI as I refuse to go through the convoluted steps to get that aspect working.

Otherwise, the way the setup works is simple:

  • Set the phone or tablet to connect to the Raspberry Pi’s wireless
  • Open the browser and connect to http://volumio.local/
  • Modify the playlist as desired
  • Disconnect Wi-Fi until needed again

Simple enough. Only downside is the need to shut it down before turning off your car if you’re running on a car charger. So that’s a reason to use a portable charger for this — not to mention how inexpensive they are.

Now if only the Volumio developers would consider adding a configuration option (disabled by default) to let us display embedded album art so we can decide for ourselves if any performance penalty is worth it.

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Amending the Constitution – replying to Tom Coburn

Article: The Constitutional Amendments We Need Today

I’ve said before to be wary of someone who talks about amending the Constitution. Yes, I know I’ve mentioned an amendment I’d like to see passed, but I’m not saying I’m immune from the criticism. So feel free to critique the amendment I’m proposing.

In this installation, however, let’s discuss the amendments that Tom Coburn from The Daily Beast wants to see:

This is why I have dedicated my retirement to the mission of correcting our nation’s course through the constitutional process of proposing amendments to accomplish three goals: impose fiscal restraints on Washington, limit federal power and jurisdiction to that which it was actually given in the Constitution, and set term limits for federal officials.

Three amendments specified, so let’s tackle them individually. Not going to go in order, and you’ll see why when I start with this one:

Limit federal power and jurisdiction to that which it was actually given in the Constitution

In other words, the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. I think Coburn really needs to read the Constitution he proposes amending. And let’s also not forget the power of the judiciary to take those Amendments and apply them against the government and hold them to it.

Term limits for federal officials

And I’ve discussed this idea in detail as well:

Needless to say this is an idea that’s been brought up numerous times. And I’m generally opposed to this idea as well. A Constitutional Amendment is not the remedy for political failures.

Impose fiscal restraints on Washington

And again, an Amendment is not the remedy for political failures. Not to mention this could create more problems than it solves. Want an idea as to what I mean? Look at what is threatened with a “government shutdown”.

The problem with trying to put fiscal restraints on the Federal government is it doesn’t alleviate the liabilities and obligations that government has. And that is where the problem with Federal spending comes in. An Amendment won’t alleviate that.

Stop trying to use the Amendment process to circumvent the hard questions that need to be addressed.

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Mistakes were made

Wow… it’s been… months since the last part of this. So what in the hell has been happening? Well, in short, a lot. I’d been doing some thinking on how to build the internal frame to the cabinet. I also needed to acquire a few things that I’ll detail later, plus there were a lot of other things coming up in the mean time.

The biggest hurdle was my inexperience with woodworking. The previous attempt at a cabinet frame was far from ideal. It wasn’t completely square. There were numerous defects to its construction largely because I cut a lot of corners, mostly due to lack of setup — e.g. I didn’t yet have a table saw when I built that. About the only saving grace was being made from 2x4s with dowel joints, so it could stand up to literally anything I did to it, including setting a lot of weight on top of it.

But this cabinet I want to do as properly as I can.

For tools I already had a drill presstable saw, circular saw, and cordless drill. I acquired a palm sander, electric planer (which I’m considering selling), and a jointer for this project as well.

A lot of mistakes were made along the way. I’ll discuss those mistakes herein for the sake of transparency and for helping out any amateur woodworkers as well who might come across this. It’ll basically be the sole focus of this article. And I’m doing this really to just outline my intentions and thought processes. So if you’re not interested in these details, feel free to click away from this.

Mistakes are how we ultimately learn. And I feel a person working on a project should outline the mistakes they’ve made and how they were overcome.

My first mistake, or so I thought, was the choice of lumber for this. Home Depot sells “pre-milled” 1×4 boards in minimum 72″ lengths. Initially I was making 2x4s by face-gluing them together. To try to get them as flat as possible out of the gate, I clamped them to the side of a laminated particle board bookcase. And it kind of worked…

The major concern here was making sure the result was square and flat. And to account for the uneven edges, I had already planned to slim them down to 3″ wide from their nominal 3.5″, starting with jointing the edges. Which didn’t work out as well as I’d initially hoped.

So on to round 2. New set of 1x4s. But not face gluing them. Instead I decided to take a simpler approach: full lap joints. This would require square cuts and flat edges to get everything square when assembled together using glue, screws, and pilot holes. And that went pretty well until I needed to drill the holes to mount the rack rail. And that’s where I screwed up on that one.

I didn’t move on to a “round 3” right away, though. Before spending any more on wood, I wanted to assess what I was doing wrong. So I took to the Internet to do more research. And there were some rather key things I was doing wrong. Key things I was overlooking without realizing it.

Apartment woodworking

Living in an apartment means my options aren’t all that great. I have limited room and neighbors to account for when it comes to noisy power tools. On which the circular saw and table saw are easily the worst, as I can’t use either without hearing protection. The jointer, on the other hand, sounds like a really loud vacuum cleaner. Hearing protection likely advised, but it doesn’t hurt my ears running it so I tend to just not worry about it.

Now there is a woodworker’s guild in my area that I’m seriously considering joining, along with taking some woodworking classes. But I wanted to see whether I could complete this project before doing that. And how well it’d turn out. More study was definitely needed in the mean time.

And that started with my jointer.

Benchtop jointers

I watched a few videos online about using a jointer, but easily the most valuable is this one by Craftsman.

I had presumed that, after assembly, it’d just be fine out of the box after guaranteeing the rip fence was square. Except it wasn’t square as I first thought. And getting it square was mildly frustrating as the rip fence kept wanting to creep slightly whenever I tried to tighten it down.

The more significant change though was technique. Most videos and tutorials on jointers work from the presumption that you’re using a large jointer — the ones commonly found in woodworking shops and guilds. Few talk about the smaller benchtop jointers like mine. In fact, the Craftsman video above is the only actual video on YouTube I could find specifically addressing using a benchtop jointer effectively.

Do all the woodworking experts on YouTube expect everyone watching their videos to have the larger jointers at their disposal?

So what needs to be kept in mind with the benchtop jointers?

Well for one, a very shallow cut depth. This might seem like a no brainer, but unless you’ve worked with the larger counterparts, you don’t have a reference for comparison to these smaller units. Meaning you don’t know the power difference between them. For all I knew, the motor in mine is just as powerful as in larger models, but just without the tables and rip fences needed to work with larger stock.

So it was very helpful to learn that you need to keep to a very shallow cut depth. 1/32″ is what I saw recommended. My jointer — pictured above — doesn’t have a depth gauge, so I had to use a square to measure the cut depth. You might be able to get away with 1/16″, but it’s best going shallower.

This also keeps “snipe” to a minimum, but that’s something that is otherwise common with these smaller jointers. Something that can be accounted for by keeping the piece long when planing it, then ripping it down to final length later.

Lumber

 

And then there’s the lumber itself.

For the third round, I considered going back to face-gluing the 1x4s, this time as a triple layer instead of a double layer. Only I didn’t go that route. Each six-foot 1×4 was shy of 5 USD, so that would get expensive in a hurry.

Instead, I’m leaning toward using 4x4s. Why? To answer that, I need to get into some math. Which means I need to first talk about the outer cabinet frame, the SEKTION cabinet.

Math on the cabinet frames

The SEKTION cabinet frame is 3/4″ particle board. For the 30″ tall, 24″ wide SEKTION cabinet, the internal width is 22-1/2″ and the internal height is 28-3/8″ — top and bottom aren’t flush with the edge of the panel.

The rails are 1-1/2″ total width and the mounting holes are give-or-take along the mid-line, so about 3/4″ from the mounting hole center to the face of the rail. And the 12U rails are 21″ tall, which will leave a little over 3-1/2″ clearance on the top and bottom. So time for some more math.

I’m aiming for a rail depth of 22″. The internal frame, then, will be 20.5″ deep between the mounting holes. Add the width of 1 board, and the entire frame would need to be about 23.5″ deep. Round up to 24″ to keep things simple.

Again, the frame’s internal width is 22.5″. To get the rails to the proper width for the EIA-310 specification, I would need to close that width down to about 19.25″, a difference of about 3.25″. Splitting that evenly means 1-5/8″ on each side.

I originally planned this to use 2x4s — as doubled-up 1x4s — and a 1/8″ thick washer on each side. So why 4x4s instead? They’re 3.5″ square, and an 8-foot 4×4 is only about 2 to 3 USD more than the 6-foot 1x4s I’d been buying. So a decent 4×4 could net me the equivalent of two 2x4s even after jointing and ripping. Provided I get decent stock to start with.

So what next?

I’m not yet anywhere close to having a completed cabinet. This just hasn’t been a major priority for me on my project list. But I have been continuing some experiments lately.

I mentioned earlier about need to re-adjust the rip fence on the jointer. Along with that, I acquired a 4×4 from my local Menard’s — thanks to the guys there for helping me with it and lopping the 8′ timber in half. It’s currently acclimating to my apartment as I write this. They also carry engineered 4x4s made of oak, I presume for indoor staircases. But those were…. expensive. I might consider them for the next cabinet, though. But not for this one.

So really right now I’m just trying to figure out how best to do the inner frame for the cabinet. I have a few ideas in mind and some power tools to help me out. It’s just a matter now of learning how to use the tools since I’m now well beyond just cutting wood and drilling holes.

In the mean time, though, that’s at least an intermediate update to what is going on with this. The next update, which hopefully won’t be several more months out, should be with progress on the cabinet itself.

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Honoring delivery instructions

Once again I have a beef with FedEx and their apparent inability to honor delivery instructions. Where UPS has MyChoice, FedEx has the Delivery Manager. Which you can use to keep an eye on packages you have coming in, receive notifications when a new package has been scanned into the system, and even customize delivery.

On delivery customization, you can redirect the package to a FedEx Office location (the sender can disable this option on a package, something I’ve gotten on NewEgg’s case about) or provide specific delivery instructions for your home. On that, I have the delivery instructions set to leave the package at the apartment office.

And for some reason, FedEx refuses to honor those instructions. As my previous post on this shows, they’ve been leaving the packages at my apartment door. This is especially disheartening when we’re talking about items being delivered that…. aren’t exactly cheap to replace. And if such an item were to be stolen because they left it at my front door instead of the apartment office, I’m skeptical they’d go the distance and replace the item.

So after the latest incident, I took to Twitter (rare for me), and openly called out FedEx. When they replied requesting the tracking number and my contact information, I initially resisted, saying I’d tried it before. That the last time I was told the problem was resolved, despite the fact it obviously has not.

But eventually I gave in and sent them the tracking number and my contact information. This was their response:

Thank you for the requested information.

Your concerns have been escalated to the management team.

You should receive follow-up within 24 business hours.

which is basically what happened last time. As I mentioned, I was told the problem should have been resolved. The last time I wrote in about it. But there is no indication on the package with this last delivery that the delivery instructions were being honored. No label on the package saying to leave at the apartment office. Nothing.

There is clearly a disconnect in their system such that the delivery instructions are not making it down to the “last mile” sorting and handling area, where the packages are sorted onto trucks for final delivery. Only once did FedEx not redirect a package to a FedEx location per my request, and I lambasted them via e-mail with regard to that.

This time, however, they are persisting with not honoring my delivery instructions.

I’ve never had this problem with UPS. Almost all of my packages are redirected to a nearby UPS Store without fail. The only exceptions are controlled items. Those won’t be redirected to a UPS Store (and it’d be nice to receive a notification when these packages CAN’T be redirected), but I can still have them held at the UPS Customer Center a couple miles from where I live. Which also has slightly better hours than the UPS Store, but is a little bit out of my way. Whereas the UPS Store is on my way home from work.

The latest complaint was made on August 11. So far I haven’t heard back from FedEx on the nature of my complaint, despite being told that I should’ve heard something within “24 business hours”. So who knows what’ll happen this time.

FedEx, if you find this, seriously fix this, or leave a comment below giving me and everyone else who comes across this article a status update. I think all of your customers deserve to know whether their delivery instructions will be consistently honored.

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