Will Browar https://wbrowar.com/ https://wbrowar.com//theme/logo.png Will Browar https://wbrowar.com/ RSS Feed for Maker articles on wbrowar.com en-US Sun, 31 Mar 2024 14:25:30 -0400 Sun, 31 Mar 2024 14:25:30 -0400 Wall-Mounted Standby https://wbrowar.com/article/maker/wall-mounted-standby Sun, 28 Jan 2024 09:51:00 -0500 Will https://wbrowar.com/article/maker/wall-mounted-standby In 2023, Apple introduced a feature to their MagSafe-compatible iPhones, called Standby. This feature lets you use the widgets from your apps when your phone is:

  • Magnetically attached to a MagSafe charger or plugged in with a charging cable
  • The phone is positioned upwards and in the horizontal position
  • The device’s Lock Screen is on

I currently have 2 MagSafe stands by TwelveSouth that I use on a nightstand while I sleep and on my desk while I'm working. With these stands in places here are some ways I typically use Standby:

  • On my nightstand I display a digital clock alongside either the weather widget, a charging widget, or my calendar (via Fantastical).
  • While I'm working I typically leave my phone on the World Clock, showing points that represent the timezones of some of the international teammates I work with.
  • In both places, I’ll turn on the Now Playing screen for audio books and podcasts that I listen to (usually air playing to speakers or AirPods Pros).

I really love how simple this feature is to use and now I want to put MagSafe stands all around my house. After upgrading my nightstand MagSafe stand to the HiRise 3 Deluxe, I gave the Forté I was previously using to my wife, which—replacing her MagSafe charger—left us with an extra MagSafe puck to spare.

Finding a Use Case

My first thought was to pick up another Forté and find a place to put it in the kitchen, but then—as part of a customer journey—marketing for a different brand had another idea in mind.

I got a marketing email by a company I bought iPhone stands and AirTag cases from, Elevation Lab, for a new product that lets you pin an AirTag to your kids or a piece of luggage. While I'm not in the market for that, it got me to visit their website and check it out. While I was there, I came across something they call, MagBase.

MagBase is essentially a little silicon holder for a MagSafe puck that is meant to live on your desk or another flat surface. It’s designed so you can pick up your phone by sliding it off the magnet, but just as easily, you can pick up both your phone and your MagSafe puck to do things like check your email or respond to messages.

I like that the MagBase is very minimal, and even though it’s designed to sit on a flat surface it gave me an idea on how I can solve a very minor problem, while also giving me another place to use Standby.

A few years ago I put together this little couch-side shelf, and above that I mounted a shelf for more vertical space. Last year, I unmounted the shelf for a few minutes to add a headphone hook to it. I use this shelf while watching TV or playing video games and I usually place things like my iPad and AirPods Pro case on it.

As far as my phone goes, I usually put that on the arm of the couch because I had no other particular place to put it. This extra MagSafe puck helped me find a new place for it, and it looked cool to boot.

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The headphone hook sits in the middle of the shelf, so when sitting on the couch there is some room on the wall to the left and to the right of the headphones. The space to the right seemed like a really good place to put a MagSafe puck. Before ordering a MagBase I thought that maybe I would 3D print my own MagSafe mount. After taking a look at some of the 3D printing model sites I found that the idea of mounting a MagSafe puck on the wall wasn't a new idea, and there were several free, really nice models to choose from.

One thing the MagBase had going for it, though, was that it also comes with a USB-C extender. This would be important because the 1-meter distance from the nearest outlet to the place I wanted to mount the MagSafe puck was too short. That got me to go for the MagBase, so I placed an order and it showed up a couple of days later.

I thought for a little bit about how I would run the MagSafe cable around the shelf. I didn't want to drape the cable over the shelf, but if I added a little gap between the shelf and the wall I could run the cable behind the shelf. This wasn’t really my favorite option, so I unmounted the shelf and brought it down to the workshop to see if I could come up with something else.

Channeling a Solution

I took a look at where the shelf mounting hardware fits into the shelf and noticed that the area I routed out for the mounting hardware gave me about 5mm to work with. With the cable plugged into the wall on the left side, I could have ran the cable from the left mount to the right, leaving the cable just under the shelf.

Maybe it was where I was standing, but something else came to mind. Did you know that the width of the kerf on a table saw blade is exactly the same thickness as a MagSafe cable? At least this is true for the blade that came with my DeWalt table saw.

I moved the table saw fence close enough that the blade lined up with the routed area for the mounting hardware. I raised the blade to just about 3-4mm, picked up one side of the shelf, and did a plunge cut from one side of the mounting hardware slot to the other.

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I did a quick test of the cable to find that it was a perfect fit!

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I realized I had to create an exit point for the cable on both sides, so I grabbed a chisel and diagonally cut out a notch for the cable on both sides.

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While doing a dry run with the cable, I also realized that I would need to let some of the cable sit within the routed out area that the bottom of the mounting hardware sits. The problem with this is that a lot of the stability for the shelf is based around clamping down on that area and I didn't want to crush the MagSafe cable to get this to work.

I found a washer big enough to fill up that area and found that if I stack up two washers it was just about as high as the MagSafe cable. I used some hot glue to attach the washers tougher, then onto the shelf. I didn’t really need to do this but this would make it so that when I'm mounting the shelf the washers wouldn’t move around and fall out of place.

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After another quick test I was all set with routing the cable from one end of the shelf to the other.

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The final step was to re-mount the shelf and then attach the MagBase to the wall. I took one more pass at running the cable through the channel I just made. I made it as flush as I could and made sure the MagSafe puck was the right distance from the shelf to where I wanted to put it.

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This is a DIY situation I really like being in. This is the 4th time I’ve iterated on this shelf area and each time it becomes more useful for my needs. I also like that everything in this project is reversible. As with all technology, a new things comes along every few years and sometimes things just break. If I decide I no longer want the MagSafe puck in this spot, I can unmount it and remove it from the shelf, leaving only the channel and the notch cut out, but hidden in the back of the shelf. Removing the washers should be pretty easy, too.

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As I was going through these pictures on my laptop, I placed my phone up on the wall, put on a podcast, and got to enjoy this new setup right away.

Chest Organizer https://wbrowar.com/article/maker/chest-organizer Wed, 10 May 2023 12:30:00 -0400 Will https://wbrowar.com/article/maker/chest-organizer We wanted to get a storage chest for our back yard because our kids were spending more time with friends out there and we wanted to make it easier for them to access their toys. Along with the better playing-outside weather, we were doing more grilling and I was looking for a place to store grates, charcoal, and other grill-related tools.

At first I planned on getting a separate storage cabinet for the grilling stuff, but we found a storage chest that was big enough to house everything. The tricky part was keeping everything organized and separating the toys from the fire-related tools in one big, empty box.

This project was a quick one and it helped clean out some of the leftover wood I had laying around. It also let me try out something new on the 3D printer.


The basic idea was to cut the interior of the box in half, based on the size of some of the grilling components. Our grill was a 22-inch kettle grill, so the widest we'd need to go is around 22 inches. The grill we have has a grate with a 12-inch hole that is meant for accessories, like a cast iron plate or wok. It also came with a warming shelf that we used on occasion. We also had some cleaning tongs and matches that needed a place to stay.

On the toy side of things, we have various balls, bats, and catching devices. My kids’ reach is still pretty short, so we wanted to elevate all of the toys so they could easily reach in and grab what they need.

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I put together a rough plan for everything so I knew what sizes I was working with, but along the way I changed things up based on where we wound up putting the chest.

As far as materials go, I had a bunch of leftover plywood and pine 2x4s, so my plan was to whip them all together using some glue and some brad nails, then use some oil or paint to seal them.

Grilling Dividers

I had plywood ripped at about 2 feet wide, which was perfect for the height of the chest. I left the height as-is and worked out the measurements along the length to cut it down into the lengths I needed it to be for each piece.

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I used some foam packing pieces as a base and a couple of clamps and a long piece of scrap wood as a guide to cut the pieces with the hand saw.

By the time I was done I had cut all of the walls with the hand saw and used the miter saw to cut the smaller pieces down to the right size.

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I planned on attaching them all together using glue and nails and I didn't go through the trouble to plan out any fancy joinery as the pieces should be plenty supported for their use. I did cut the smallest divider a little wider and then I use a router to cut a channel into its connecting pieces. While maybe unnecessary, it offers a little more support in the middle.

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I went ahead and nailed these pieces together.

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Next up I measured out the length and width of what would be the floor of the raised up portion of the grilling side. I cut that down with the hand saw and miter saw and put it aside.

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At this point I tested the fit inside the chest and everything was looking good.

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I wanted to add a little support to the raised floor, so I made a frame with a 2x4 and nailed that into the floor piece.

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With that all set, I nailed the floor into place. Although not shown in this picture, I also added one small 2x4 piece in the corner for a little extra support.

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I flipped the piece over and used a rounding bit along the tops of all of the dividing pieces to smooth them down a bit.

Making a Toy Table

Once I had the final size of the grilling side set, I used the remaining room inside the chest to create a platform for the toys.

I cut a leftover sheathing panel down the the right width and length to cover the toy side, then I used some 2x4s to create four legs and then some supports.

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I used some 1-2-3 blocks and clamps to hold them up while I nailed the supports into place.

From there I thought about how to get the table in and out and went over to the drill press—which still had the 1½ inch hole saw bit in it from my birdhouse project—and cut a whole on one side of the middle of the table.

I used the same rounding bit on the router to smooth out the hole so it no longer had any sharp edges.

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Quick Finish

Just like everything in this project so far where I was using scraps and leftovers I also chose to finish everything with some leftover spray paint. I had a couple of cans of red and black paint, but the black had primer built in so I decided to go that route.

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A couple of coats later, I let the pieces dry and then I placed them into the storage chest.

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Functional Labels

In the grill side of the chest I wanted to hang a couple of tools, so I needed some sort of hook in the portion that was the full height of the chest. I decided to design and print the hooks with my 3D printer.

I used Fusion360 to create a model that would wrap around the top of the plywood edges with a hook protruding out one side.

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The fit came out great and the hook seemed strong enough for the things I would hang off of it.

I also wanted to test out some debossed lettering with my 3D printer, so I made an SVG label, imported it into Fusion360, and cut it into the base of the hook. I figured that if the icon was printed on the 3D printer’s plate it would come out clearer.

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There was one part that got a little messed up in the print, but I figured that this was good enough to proceed with, so I made labels for some of the different sections and I printed those out using PLA.

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It took a few tries to get the print right and I wound up settling with a couple of pieces that had some errors on them.

The thing I learned here was not to fill up the printing plate with too many pieces. Also, I will still need some more practice printing out text and next time I might consider printing it on a different side or rotating the print 90˚ so the text isn't printed on the plate.


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If I were making a storage chest from scratch I might consider taking more time to focus on stability and finish, but I'm happy with the amount of effort I put towards making this work.

Eventually I plan on taking the platform out of the toy section and I left a little extra room on the grilling side for future accessories. For now this simple project will help keep things tidy for both play time and grilling time.

Solar-Powered Bird House https://wbrowar.com/article/maker/solar-powered-bird-house Tue, 02 May 2023 07:00:00 -0400 Will https://wbrowar.com/article/maker/solar-powered-bird-house A few months ago I created this Mid-Century Bird Feeder and showed the finished photos to some family members. Upon checking it out, my mom made a request: she asked for a birdhouse made specifically for North American bluebirds. My sister was with us and asked for one, too.

I had a bunch of ideas for some cool and colorful bird houses, but after doing some research I landed on a lot of parameters and pointers that make for a successful bluebird house. So I dialed my ideas back a bit and—despite sticking to some standard birdhouse plans—this project led to a new tool and some cool experiences.


In my research I found several great sites that shared the basic plans for bluebird houses. I made note of the optimal dimensions for the inside of the birdhouse and the height of the entrance hole. I also read about a few features you can add to help keep the entrance hole safer from predators, as well as a way to help newborn babies leave the nest for the first time.

One thing that caught my eye was that a lot of makers had added cameras to their birdhouses and bird feeders so they can see their avian guests up close. This was a whole entire rabbit hole that included lots of options, ranging from all-in-one camera kits to some how-to articles for creating your own DIY camera feed. Since this was a gift, I was leaning towards the camera kits that had software that was simple to set up and use.

With that in mind, I left the design of the bird house a little open-ended until I was sure as to what the camera hardware setup would look like.

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Technology Testing

I did some shopping around when looking for a good camera kit to use. A lot of makers had something similar to a Wireless Bird Box Camera, so I started my search there. These looked very compact and there were lots of options to choose from.

I liked some of the AI bird feeders, like the Bird Buddy, that include things like bird recognition and activity notifications. However, Bird Buddy didn't sell a stand-alone camera kit and being a bird house, the AI recognition feature would go unused.

I eventually stumbled upon Netvue’s Birdfy Cam and it seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. I liked the idea of using a solar panel as a way to keep the camera battery charged up, so I bought the bundle that included both the camera and the panel.

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The camera used a standard ¼ inch mount, so I used a couple of flexible lighting mounts to clip the camera and the solar panel to my bird feeder. I wanted to test the overall experience of capturing clips, streaming, and getting notifications via the app. Here are my general notes:

  • The software made things really easy to set the camera up and to change options. I really liked that you could flip the camera upside down and set the recording quality.
  • I liked that you could quickly save clips and that on iOS it created an album in Photos for storing the clips you saved.
  • The solar panel did its job just fine. While I don’t live in the sunniest area, we still got plenty enough to charge the camera and to keep it charged for the entire time I tested it.
  • The clips are only 1080p, and I hope one day they offer a camera that lets you record in 4k (even if it only streams in 1080p), however, recording at HD quality was still pretty good and I think most people would prefer better battery life over image quality.

Throughout the day it was fun to see the variety of birds that visited my feeder.

Next up I wanted to make sure the camera would work within the rough dimension of the birdhouse and I wanted to figure out the best viewing distance from the bottom of the bird house to figure out the final measurements.

I used my sketch to cut a cardboard box into a 5-by-5 inch tunnel and placed the camera at the top. With my phone streaming the camera feed, I marked the height that I thought worked the best.

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I cut a hole in the cardboard and stacked up a couple of 1-2-3 blocks at the bottom of the model to get an understanding of what the height of a nest or some eggs might look like.

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From there I had finished up my plans and started gathering materials to build two birdhouses.

Building the Base

I wanted to use cedar for the birdhouses as it holds up well without any finish. I know the sun will eventually fade the color a bit, but I still picked pieces that had nice grain patterns and as few knots as possible.

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I picked out lumber that was close to the width in my plans, and I trimmed down the rest of the pieces as needed.

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I had figured out the height for the sides and the front and the back, so I used the miter saw to cut two piles—one for each birdhouse.

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There was a slight color difference between each pile of wood so I decided that throughout the whole project I would try to keep the wood from getting mixed between each pile. This way each birdhouse would look more cohesive than if there was one or two pieces that had a very different grain pattern.

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Once I had the walls done, I set my miter saw to a 30 degree angle and cut the diagonal top of each of the side walls.

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I set my table saw to a matching angle and cut the tops of the front and the back down to match the side walls.

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Because I was planning on using wood glue and brad nails to join the walls together, I wanted to give the bird feeder some extra support by cutting some rabbets into the bottom piece. To do this I first cut a deep cut onto the sides of the piece, then flipped the piece onto its side, adjusted the fence, and did a very shallow cut to trim off the hanging slice of wood.

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I did another cross cut to add a trench into the front and back walls at the height to match the bottom piece.

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I didn’t get it quite right the first time through, so I wound up trimming things down a little bit to fill in some of the gaps that showed up when I first put it together.

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Once I got things to fit, I tested out the bottom and things lined up nicely.

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WiFi-Enabled Roofing

With the walls and floor cut to size, I did another test of the camera position.

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This time I had to factor in where the camera’s antenna would need to go, as well as to make sure I had room to plug in the cable for the solar panel.

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I grabbed the back wall and used my router to create a channel for the cable to to live in, as the camera plus the cable wound up being about a ¼ inch too tall.

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At the top of the channel, I used a slightly larger cutting bit to create space for the antenna to stick out the back of the birdhouse.

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My plan was to mount the camera onto the roof and make it so the roof could be pulled out without disturbing anything going on in the bottom of the birdhouse. I don’t think any bird would tolerate any disturbance to their nest, so this gave better access to the camera in case some technical support was needed.

I still had to figure out exactly how to mount the camera to the roof, but I did know the dimensions I’d be using for the top piece.

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The lumber I had wasn’t wide enough to allow for an overhang along the sides the birdhouse, but luckily I had a really long and narrow piece of scrap cedar laying around. I cut the strip down to the same length of the roof piece and then glued two strips onto either side of the main piece.

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After cleaning up some glue drips I ran the roof pieces through the planer to smooth them down and to get them to the thickness I wanted.

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Once again I tilted the blade on my table saw and did a cross cut to match up the angle on the top and bottom ends of the roof pieces.

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Speaking of Access

One of the things I remember from the birdhouse we had when I was growing up is that every year we would clean out the inside of the birdhouse to get it ready for the next bird who would come and make it their home. To do this we had a hinge on the front panel of the birdhouse and we would lift that up for access to the inside.

I wanted to add some hinges to the left side panel so you could open it up like a cabinet door. I wanted to avoid a big latch on the front of the birdhouse, so I decided to try using a magnet to keep the door shut throughout the year.

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At first I thought I had picked out a strong magnet and a metal plate that would do the trick, but after actually getting it screwed into place I realized that the screws made it so the magnet wouldn't get close enough to the metal plate to provide a strong enough connection to hold the door on securely.

I wound up finding better hardware with a bigger magnet, more surface area, and recessed screw holes that make the screws flush with their surface.

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I used a chisel to widen up the holes used for the original magnet.

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Door Groove

To make it a little easier to open up the door, I wanted to use my router to create a groove along the bottom-front of the side door. While I didn't have a router table, I did have a guide attachment to my router that got me pretty close to a router table fence.

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I lined up fence, turned the router on, and then slowly dropped a test piece onto the bit and pulled it across the guide.

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To my delight, this worked as planned! I grabbed the side door pieces and carefully repeated my movement until I created the groove at a few inches in length.

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While I was working on the sides, I wanted to add some air holes to the top of each side for some extra ventilation. I wanted to drill holes in the shape of a circle using my drill press. While I know you could use a compass and some lines to map out the coordinate for each hole, I chose to go the visual route using a drawing app on my computer to add points to a circle and I printed that out a few times across a piece of paper.

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I taped down the paper to the wood and used a center hole punch to mark where each hole would go.

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I pulled the paper off of the wood and drilled each hole where the marks were made.

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I cleaned up the holes a little bit, but I knew that I would eventually be sanding these pieces so I could come back and fix them along with that step.

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Extra Support

At this point, because of the door, the base of the birdhouse was in the shape of a U. I wanted to add just a little extra support but I didn't want to get it in the way of the roof or the camera. I found some scraps from my previous cuts and created a mortise and tenon joint to hold them into place.

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This was my first time doing this kind of joint and while it wasn't perfect, using cedar did make things easier because the wood is so soft and easy to cut with a chisel.

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I used a vice to help cut the tops of the tenon side of the joint and then used a drill press and chisel for the mortise.

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Hello, Benchy

At this point in the project I had been thinking about different ways to mount the camera onto the roof piece. I originally planned something out with a series of wooden pieces, but I wanted to make it easy to take the camera out if for some reason it could no longer be of use.

This was one of many little problems I wanted to solve in projects like this and it just so happened that I work with lots of folks who are into 3D printing. Our discussions over the years have had me interested in getting one, but they always seemed like they require a lot of work to get it up and running and maintain it over time.

I discussed the current state of 3D printers with a few people who have had experience and started to look into Prusa’s MK3 kit, but a friend of mine redirected me to the relatively new Bambu P1P. The P1P was a little bit cheaper than the MK3, but it promised faster printing speed and it seemed to be a little more accessible to 3D printing newbies like myself.

I took a chance and ordered the P1P—on the day before the similar Prusa MK4 was announced—along with a bunch of random PLA Basic and PLA Matte colors. In about a week the printer had arrived and with very little effort I had it set up and in about 20 minutes I had printed my first Benchy.

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While I was waiting on the printer to arrive I looked into a couple of apps, Bambu Slicer and Fusion360. Fusion360 has been in the maker community for years and I had first heard about it for making woodworking plans. On the one hand it is very accurate and using things like User Parameters sounded like a great way to plan out woodworking projects, however, I found that I could get by with some simple sketches for now.

For 3D printing, however, that accuracy is important and Fusion360 is an amazing tool. If you search for Fusion360 tutorials on YouTube, this video is likely to come up—for good reason because it does a really great job of going over the basics: