Monday, April 15, 2019

What's it like being a sports parent?

To be honest, I don't know, but from my limited experience of being a tennis coach I've seen good and bad examples. I've often thought about what I would like parents to do and how I'd like them to behave.

These are some of the things I'd tell parents if they actually asked me!

Life is never going to be the same again! 

You will spend time, energy, effort and money supporting your son and daughter as they learn, train and compete. You will be transport manager, kit supervisor and supplier, and many other things. You will watch from the side-lines and, if you care about them, you will probably live every moment, play every point and experience every high and low of their matches.

So how can you best play your role in their journey?

Here are a few things that we hope will help:

1. Remember they are the player, you are the parent. You cannot and should not try to live out your sporting dreams through them. Let them play. Encourage them. Praise them. Tell them you are proud of them.
2. Be the parent not the coach. Coaches see things you do not see. They understand the process of learning and developing. Let them do their job. Ask questions by all means, but trust them.
3. Be positive. No player needs to be told when they have played badly or hit a poor shot. Don't let your frustration show. You can be sure that the moment you have your hands in the air in despair, that will be the moment they look across to where you are sitting.
4. Don't let them think they are ever letting you down because they aren't winning.
5. Ask them how you can help them.
6. Chart the matches: This is helpful to the coach when they get on the practice court and it gives you something to do.
7. Don't offer rewards for winning. This just adds pressure, especially if the reward is highly desired!
8. Avoid analysing matches straight away.
9. If you're not at the match then don't make: "Did you win?" your first question. Ask them about the experience of competing; ask them about how they felt they played.

I'm sure there are more things I'd want to add to list list, but that will do for now. 

A useful resource is this little book: Conversations for the Journey. It's available from Non-Perfect Dad. It's 64 pages long and contains a series of questions creative ways to handle conversations with your sporting child in a positive and affirming way.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Extension to my MFT-style bench

I decided to build a small extension for my MFT-Style bench to support the waste side material so it didn't just fall on the floor after cutting. It's a really simple build but as ever there is quite a lot of designing and redesigning along the way to make it work how I imagined it.

The extension is very simple:
 The piece of MDF that forms the top is just something I had lying around and was about the right size. It sits in a rail made from a piece of softwood, also found lying around. The rail is made on the table-saw. I am so pleased I bought it!

There are a couple of supports and a strip of MDF that locate the extension in place. You can see these in the picture of the underside.

The timber supports have a rebate at one end that sits in a matching rebate in the vertical part of the rail.

My idea was to make this something I could put in place when needed and store out of the way when not needed. The simplest solution to how and where to store it that I could come up with was to make a couple of brackets and screw them to the legs of the bench on the end where the extension will be used.

It's out of the way but easily accessible and right where it needs to be.

I might yet build a slightly longer (or should that be wider) knock down extension that attaches in the same way but has its own fold out legs to support the other end.

The challenge as ever is where to stop it if I make it.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Building my new benches

By now it must be obvious that I decided to sort out the garage and make it more of a workshop. My old bench that I built many years ago had to be easy to set up and take down because I worked outside when the weather permitted. Now I had the garage space in which to work and it was just time to build a new bench.

The outside wall of the garage has pillars 1600mm apart, so I decided to build one new bench to fit between two pillars and then another bench the size of the MFT top to fit in the gap the other side of the pillar. I then decided I'd build my router table into the bench using the cabinet I'd built previously.

Here's a view along the length of the benches.

Overall I now have around 3M of bench space, 720mm deep.

Each bench has a simple frame made from stud timber available at my local DIY store (B&Q as it happens) and the bench top is 18mm MDF to match the MFT top. Once built they are finished with wax, although the router section is finished with 3 coats of a water-based varnish (purely because I wanted to try a different finish on the MDF when I made it).

The bench frame was constructed as two rectangles and the legs were fastened on the inside squaring it up as I went. A bottom shelf adds to the rigidity of the bench and it's certainly rigid and strong.

You can see how simple the frame is here. The bottom shelves were made from whatever I had left-over. This one is some OSB, the other bench has some 18mm ply I picked out of the off cut box at B&Q. I'm very grateful to whoever it was that didn't want the off-cuts, I got almost a full sheet of good sized pieces!

The work bench has a small vice attached, and I am planning to build a better woodworking vice for it. I also drilled some 20mm holes in the top so that I could use the bench dogs and clamps with it as well as the MFT style bench.

The MFT has a piece of aluminium extrusion on the front edge set just below the height of the top. I could have used T-track, but I bought a piece of extrusion to make a fence and decided to buy a second piece for the front edge. T-track would have been more flexible because it would take the track clamps. The extrusion is primarily intended for building CNC machines, but it makes a great fence.

 Here's the MFT with the fence. You can also see the bench dogs in their holder on the wall behind and attached to the fence is the flag stop.

So far it's all proved very useful. The built-in router table works okay. It has two slots for its fence. The fence has a couple of carriage bolts that drop through holes in the top and run in a couple of grooves.

So, how much did it cost? The timber was probably around £40 for the studs and a sheet of OSB, oh and there was the MDF for the router table and workbench.

The MFT top was £36 from CNCDesign and the extrusion was £34 from Ooznest for both pieces. There bench dogs came from Benchdogs as did the flag stop and the fence dogs. They came to around £68 in total.

The. various jigs and things I've made to go with the MFT are all made from scrap. The only thing I had to buy were some nuts and bolts to use with the track. A fully kitted Festool MFT3 comes in at around £600 new, £300-400 without the fence and guide rail extras.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Vertical clamping stops

 The aluminium extrusion on the Festool MFT allows you to use the Festool (and similar) clamps to hold material vertically. There extrusion I've used doesn't have a wide enough groove, so I had to come up with another solution.

Here are my original prototypes. The design was simple enough: a "plate" that sat on the front of the rail with a piece of mdf above and below the rail to help secure it in place.

An M5 bolt and T-nut secure the stops to the track and a 20mm hole allows the the clamp to be used with the block.

When I tried to use them it became apparent that they needed to be wider so that the clamps worked effectively. The central hole simply didn't work, so I drilled out another hole nearer the edge and cut away a notch to allow the clamp to have more surface on which to bear.

The other problem was that the clamp would turn in my hand and that made using it tricky. I added a small block but that didn't really help. So I came up with another design.

This time I cut a groove in the back of the face plate. I also made the plate wider. I thinner cut a notch to allow for the slight inside curve of the clamp and then used a small piece of 6mm material (the main components are 18mm mdf) to prevent the clamps falling out the back of the groove and to limit any tilting of the block. Probably not necessary because the nut and bolt pull the plate securely onto the rail.

Another groove towards the top allows the clamp to be placed in two positions. The two blocks are made as a pair-left and right handed-and work really well.

Because of their design, these clamping blocks can be used as stop for other things used with the bench.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Workshop update: MFT Track Saw

As part of the process of reworking the garage/workshop I decided the explore the world of the MFT (Multi-Function Table). Those familiar with the term MFT will immediately think of Festool and how expensive their MFT can be. I'm not complaining about the cost of Festool kit. As far as I can tell it's worth the price, but for me it's out of my budget.

As I began to build my new bench system (something I haven't actually documented-a job for another day maybe) I decided to look at the concept of the MFT and see what I could incorporate in my design. I stumbled across a company that CNC replacement tops for the Festool table for around £40, and via various other searches and links I found a company who make bench dogs and flag stops etc for MFT's too.

So I built a simple bench using the MFT top and added some aluminium extrusion to the front edge and used another piece for a fence. I'll do some photo's and a post about that. I bought a track saw and using the bench dogs and the fence I now have a really useful track saw station and a clamping surface that is very nice to use indeed.

To support the track I made a simple support that rides on the front rail and locks in position with a couple of T-nuts and bolts. At the other end is another piece of MDF so the track is supported at both ends.

I made it from 18mm MDF because that was what I was cutting, but I also cut 6mm, 9mm and 12mm material, so unless I put something under the work piece the track isn't in contact with the stock. So I decided the make a 6mm and 9mm version.

But I didn't want to have to make more knobs and anyway it's quite fiddly getting the nuts into the track. So I made my 6 and 9 supports without the bolts and made some simple stops that run in the track and lock the support in place.

 I cut some pieces of MDF and ply to use at the other end of the track and now I have a couple of sets of supports. A couple of extra bits of 6mm MDF turn my 6mm support into a 12mm support and there are a couple of other bits of thin ply that can be used to raise the track around 5mm if needed.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Would you use an online GP appointment?

Your first thought might be like mine: It depends on what is wrong. If you have a shoulder problem then you really want the doctor to get his or her hands on it and test it rather than simply discussing symptoms over a live video chat. But for other things, well, it might be just the thing.

That's where I found myself this week.

Having been grounded by an attack of some sort of winter flu/cold virus, things developed and I began to have a few breathing problems reminiscent of a really bad incident 6 years ago. I checked online with our surgery and the earliest appointment I could get was 2 weeks away. Knowing what happened before I decided it was probably going to need a trip to the walk-in centre. But then I decided to try an online consultation service called Push Doctor.

This was my experience.

The first thing I had to do was create an account and answer a few questions. All very straightforward  and what you'd expect. You can choose whether to share the results of the consultation with your own GP or not and you need to add a Credit Card in order to pay for the service. The cost for a one-off appointment is £30 and there's an £8 fee for a prescription and you will need to pay for any medication prescribed when you collect them. You have to decide whether that represents good value for money for yourself. If, like me, the alternative is either a two week wait to see your own GP or pay around £60 for a private appointment, then £30 is good value. Especially considering how quickly I got to see a doctor.

Having signed up and verified my identity I booked my appointment. I went for 7:30am the next morning (Saturday). I downloaded the app to my 'phone but actually used my MacBook for the consultation. You can enter the virtual waiting room up to 30 minutes before your appointment and the system needs to check that your device is working, so don't leave it too late to get ready. You get a notification about where you are in the queue. As it was I got to see the doctor a few minutes early.

So, how did it go? Okay. We discussed my symptoms and the medic asked the kind of questions I expected. He was thorough and clear in explaining what he thought was the best course of action. Pretty much exactly what you'd expect if you were sitting in the consulting room.

A prescription was issued and the consultation ended. I suppose the only thing that might have been different at the local surgery would have been whether the doctor chose to listen to my breathing or not.

The process for the prescription was straightforward. The system checks local pharmacies for stock and then sends a fax (a bit old school, why not a pdf copied to the patient I wonder?). Once the collection point has been confirmed you get a text and off you go to pick up your drugs. I was prescribed an antibiotic and a steroid, total cost £10.

Overall it all worked really well. Rather than wait two weeks or visit the walk-in clinic, I spent a little over 10 minutes online sitting on my sofa. Even at £48 it felt like money well spent. Local GP surgeries are under ever increasing pressure and typically even when you get the surgery it can be 40 minutes past your allotted time before you get into the consulting room. Not great if you're feeling like death warmed up.

Would I use it again? Yes is the simple answer. There are obviously things where you actually need to sit in a room with a doctor, but not everything requires that. I know too that there have been some concerns about the online consultation service, but my experience is that it was great for me and my needs.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Dust extractor cyclone

Having watched a number of videos about home-made cyclones I decided it was time to invest in one now I have a table saw. The amount of sawdust it produces and the frequency with which my shop vacuum filter clogs meant I needed to do something.

So I ordered some parts from Amazon and waited for delivery. Disappointingly the cyclone part of the kit isn't coming for a couple of weeks, so I'm still emptying and unclogging the vacuum.

Eventually I was looking around the garage and noticed two old buckets. One had tile adhesive in it and one I think was paint. I use them for rubbish but it's time to repurpose them. I also had a bit of waste pipe.Now to get all Heath-Robinson and see if these two old buckets would do the job. Neither had a lid so I cut a ring from 9mm mdf and used a few dabs of CA glue to stick it to the smaller bucket and then some silicone sealant to make sure it was airtight.

I used the middle of the ring to make the top hose connection, primarily because the first hole I cut was too big! The side connection was another bit of pipe secured with a small bit of wood screwed through the pipe and the wall of the bucket. Again lots of silicone to seal.

Because I didn't have a lid for the bottom bucket I just used some broad black insulating tape to the strap the two together. The tape round the top was to hold the mdf in place. An old hose from another vacuum cleaner and the thing was built.

To test it I emptied the contents of the cleaner on the floor. The filter was already clogging up although I'd cleaned it a few hours previously.

Amazingly it worked! I didn't think the buckets were big enough to create a separator but they did. When I opened the vacuum cleaner there wasn't a hint of sawdust in it at all. Because of the tape I can't open the cyclone, or rather can't be bothered to open it, but all the use must be in there.

It's all very exciting and possibly the most exciting thing I've ever made.