9 May 2021

Been learning Alibre CAD. Looking around on YouTube, there are many videos, but Joko Engineering’s 3-part series on creating a fictitious cylinder head was exactly what I needed (I learn best by following along). All that it required was starting and stopping his video about a million times, but at the end of it, I’d successfully created a cylinder head just like his—though unlike his, mine has sparkplug holes, which he left out for some reason, hah.

I then started in on replicating Midlana’s tube frame chassis. The thinking is that eventually, the supply of first-generation Miata suspension uprights will dry up, so I’ll need to provide revised suspension geometry to mate with the later generation parts. Doing that didn’t get far, though, because unlike the cylinder head lesson where I could follow along, no one was showing me what to do. Converting a line drawing to a 3-D rendered image isn’t playing nice, which is for sure something I’m not doing right. I asked around on the Alibre forum, and one extremely helpful user has sort of taken me under his wing, going so far as sending me a couple videos on how to create a simple tube-frame structure. That’s looking promising, so regardless of what’s in the future, rest assured that I’ll continue supporting both the Midlana design and its builders.

Over on the Midlana Builder’s Forum, I go into some detail about how, after creating Midlana, I’m at a bit of a loss about where to head next in terms of cars. As mentioned, Midlana’s performance is beyond my ability, so I see little point in making something faster. There might be something different, but probably not quicker!

I just enjoy building things, not only car projects. At the moment, I feel a draw toward designing and building a laser cutter so that I can finally make that dang wooden gear clock I keep mentioning. There are already plenty of videos on people making laser cutters, but that’s not the point. It’s something new for me, so there!

25 April 2021

Took Midlana out for a few hours; it was nice to get out of the house and into the fresh air. Apparently everyone else felt the same way, because roads were really crowded, us all just slowly bumping along from one red light to the next.

In other news, as I gradually approach retirement age, in addition to the pond and garden, I’ve been gathering tools to keep myself busy in the garage, and one of those is CAD software. Because I plan to use it for many years, subscription software is a big No, yet unfortunately, that’s where the industry is headed. While it may be fine for a business, it’s a no-go for someone with a hobby that doesn’t make money. Worse, spending $500+ a year for  a decade or two is just nuts. I asked around on machinist forums to see what they use, and it was a bit funny/annoying that they kept suggesting “great” CAD packages that are, you guessed it, subscription-based. I was even offered a  free copy of SolidWorks, as in, an older version that doesn’t check the license. I decided not to for several reasons, one being that it’s like Robin Hood offering you a free flat-screen TV; it’s not their’s to give. Older versions of SolidWorks are indeed offered online—on what look like really sketchy websites. The copy I was offered might be fine, maybe, but I just can’t in good conscience go that way. After more research, I chose Alibre. Yes, there’s FreeCAD, but I’ve read enough about it that I don’t want to mess with it. There’s also the free version of Fusion 360, but the manufacturer recently neutered it a bit, souring me on what they might do to it in the future, and their pay-for product is, ta-da, subscription-based.

So, what’s the CAD for? Well, if there’s another car project, it needs CAD, and I refuse to use Google Sketchup again, so it means coming up to speed on another package. So much is going CNC: lathes, mills, routers, laser cutters, plasma cutters, and off course, 3D printers. Since CAD takes time to learn, it makes sense to start with that first, so Alibre is already installed and I’m starting in on self-imposed training. Some of you may remember me complaining about how expensive it is to get anything laser cut. If I build a CNC laser cutter, what I would have paid someone would pay for a big share of making my own.

The thing is, all the above takes space, a constant struggle for anyone working in a standard-size garage!

2 April 2021

Yes, I know, it’s been a long time…

Midlana #2, built by Chris of Worcestershire UK, has passed all required testing, license plates are affixed, and he plans a first drive this weekend! Expect updates on his driving experiences in the Midlana Builder’s Forum.

If you’re considering building your own Midlana and live in the UK, you might want to contact Chris regarding his experiences, and maybe if you ask real nice, get a ride 🙂