Stratahex Game

We’ve invented a new board game, and it’s a lot of fun.  Stratahex combines resource collection, transportation, logistics, planning, defense, offense, warfare, and more into a simple and easy-to-play boardgame.



The basic game pieces are:

  1. Your base
  2. Supply Trucks
  3. Oil Rigs
  4. Small Tanks
  5. Artillery
  6. Standard Ammo
  7. High Explosive Ammo
  8. Coin

The board consists of 3 concentric circles with a hex-shaped hole pattern.  Parts of the board are painted light-gray, medium-gray, and dark-gray.

  • Oil rigs placed in light-gray recieve one coin per turn.
  • Oil rigs placed in medium-gray receive two coin per turn.
  • Oil rigs placed in dark-gray receive four coin per turn

You can only spend coin once it has been transported back to your base in a supply truck.  Each piece costs coin to purchase.  You have a limited number of moves per supply-truck and per weapon each turn.

Stratahex is a very comprehensive, but still simple, game to play.  The older kids, 8 and 10, have no trouble.  There is a lot of figuring, math, counting, and changing coin.

Gameplay is predictable, like chess, in that you can determine the possible moves of the opponent before his next turn.  There is no luck involved.

Plenty of fun!Image



PVC Pipe Bench?

Someone contacted me about ideas for building a bench for a youth center out of PVC pipe.  Based on this information, I thought it should:

  1. Look cool
  2. Be inexpensive to build
  3. Be safe
  4. Comfortable!
  5. Fun

Here is what I came up with as a rough draft.  I’m not sure how to position the pipes so that it provides #4 above, but this was a rough guess.  I’m using a SPLINE curve in SolidWorks with pipes 3″ on center.

Any ideas about how to make something like this comfortable?
Also, anyone know where to get load calculations for structural use of PVC pipe?
It would be my preference to use thick walled aluminum tubing (or solid rod!) but again, #2 above needs to be satisfied.

Fun with Arduino

Ok, so if you haven’t heard about it, Arduino is a really cool piece of “open source hardware”.  In simple terms, it is a single board computer with a number of analog and digital inputs and outputs, that can be programmed from your computer, but run independently.

Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.

I recently got this starter kit from

And have since been playing with making different circuits, etc… It has been a good experience in working with lower level electronics (ohm’s law, etc…)

Hope to post more soon!

Making of the “Two Swan” puzzle

As I recently posted, Ezra and I used The Gimp to draw a picture of two birds (swans?) on the ocean.

Our next step was to turn this into a puzzle for Mr. Puzzle (Ezra).

Holding the Ink Jet printout prior to gluing.

Applying glue evenly to the board.

Adhering the printed image to the wood with glue.

Examining the puzzle before cutting.

Sanding a piece of the puzzle.

The finished product!

A closeup.. I was really happy with how nice it turned out.

All of the pieces!


And a happy Mr. Puzzle!

A four wheeled wooden vehicle

Too many days in a row, I had not had enough “hands on” work to do.  So I decided to build a little toy that Zechariah would like.  Four wooden wheels, some bolts and washers, and a block of wood for the body, and we made a cool little car (or skateboard).

In the middle of it, this little girl showed up all by herself in the workshop wanting to help.  So she put all the washers on.

Anna placing washers on the wheel.


Eli, of course, was there as well turning the wrench.  We used 5/16″ bolts with a smooth shaft for the first 1″ or so as an axle.  We just turned them right into the wood, drilling the hole in the wheels a bit bigger, and the hole in the body a bit smaller for a snug fit.

Eli turning the wrench.


Here are the scraps left over after bandsawing.  I did a quick job of cutting them, so they were not exactly round.

After cutting the wheels


I used a drill press and a rasp to round out and smooth the wheels down.

Rounding the wheels

Finally, here is Zechariah quite fond of his new toy.  Another confirmation that we don’t need super-slick toys — kids love stuff that is simple.

Finished product with a happy owner.

Corner Office with a … Basement Light!

I’ve been working on moving into the new corner office with a view.  So far I have a chair, my laptop, a second monitor, keyboard, mouse, power strip, etc…

From the middle of the room, standing.

From the middle of the room, standing.

I must say — I love it.  It is indeed a unique experience to be working with your head about 7 feet off the floor.  It feels like and “office” but still a part of “home.

Tonight my 2 older sons and I went to Lowes to pick up some parts for a sub project.  We wanted to add some nice bright lighting underneath the platform, so they could host more activites down there.  They like puzzles and reading, so you need a good bit of light for that.

Our requirements were:

  • Low profile
  • Bright
  • Break-proof
  • A switch

I really didn’t want glass shattered all over the place, so good sturdy cover was required.  At the same time, sharp metal parts were out for safety reasons.

Purchased Light

We picked up satin nickel finish 48″ low profile fluorescent light fixture.  It has smooth edges, a sturdy plastic cover, and lies very flat.  But alas, it did not have a switch.  So we picked up some good sturdy wire nuts, a heavy duty toggle switch, and a grounded extension cord (soon to be light cord).

After we brought the light home and unpacked it, I started evaluating how I was going to mount it.  It was setup so the wires would go directly out the back, presumably into a junction box in the wall.  But we were  mounting it to solid wood, so that was a no-go.

So I did what any other red-blooded male would do in his workshop — dissembled the entire light.  Here we found that each side of the light is hollow aluminum, about 1.5×2.0″, and all of “their” wiring was in the one side.

craftsman-drill-pressFirst, we took the one aluminum piece and clamped it in my drill press.  Then using a 3/8″ end mill, I milled a slot about 1/2″ by 1″ – just large enough to slip a wire nut through.  (I know the drill press is not especially suited for that, but my milling machine was just too small).

Secondly, we drilled ~1/2″ holes in all four end caps.  Why four?  Because there were “functional” end caps, and “pretty” covers. That was a bit tricky, because the end caps were die-cast aluminum – not exactly the kind of material you want to clamp really hard.  And it was elliptical, so there was no convenient place to clamp it.  We ended up fabricating a custom hold-down setup using a 2×6, piece of scrap aluminum, and 2 wood screws.

Toggle Switch.  Custom made.

Toggle Switch. Custom installed.

Thirdly, we connected all the wires.  The extra wires were heavy gauge stranded wire normally used for house wiring.  On the one end, I mounted the toggle switch, and on the other end, I ran the cut end of the extension cord into the light fixture.  Each of the 8 connections were very carefully twisted and wire nutted, and then covered with 3M electrical tape, just for added security.

Lastly, we installed it. Using 3 normal wood screws, we attached it to the “ceiling” of the space under the platform – right up against the padded steel beam.

It really fits in, and is amazingly bright.  The really narrow florescent tubes perform quite well.  The boys love it, and it is quite safe (as far as banging heads off of it, etc…).

Here is a picture of the two boys under the platform in their PJ’s shortly after installation:

Two happy boys in their new play area, under my office.

Two happy boys in their new play area, under my office.