25 July 2021

Chris, in the UK, has fully completed his build of Midlana #2. He, and the magazine, Practical Performance Car, were kind enough to forward a copy of the subsequent article. It’s extensive and detailed, and I couldn’t have hoped for anything better. I was also very impressed that the magazine doesn’t chop up articles with ads as is done in so many magazines. In fact, there’s not one ad intruding into the article… very refreshing. Anyway, here you go!: Chris’s PPC article (34MB)

Practical Performance Car is exactly the kind of magazine I would buy because it’s eclectic mix of interesting one-offs. These are—to coin a UK term—”shed-built” cars, not $150K rolling advertisements for shops. It’s a little disappointing that magazines like this are so few and far between here in the states. I’ve always been a bit envious of the UK, how small car manufacturing there seems to be embraced much more so than here—the irony being how our “love of cars” doesn’t seem to extend past the showroom floor.

On a related note, Chris lives near Jeremy Clarkson’s farm, and I couldn’t help but wonder if someday, Clarkson might see the car. As for what he might say about it, I’m not holding out much hope for a complement, given the interactions that the Top Gear hosts had with homebuilts in general.

In other news, the 3D printer is finished—about as finished much as any home-built project can be. 3D printing being what it is, there’ll be endless adjustments, but I must say, the very first test print turned out far better than expected.

21 June 2021

It’s not that I haven’t been working on stuff, it just hasn’t been car related. The thought process has gone something like this:
– I set out a while back to make a wood gear clock
– Cutting the parts by hand resulted in poor part accuracy and finish, and my laser printer isn’t producing accurate paper patterns.
– Never having seen what a CNC router produces, it was surprising to see how poor the results were
– Laser cutter services were considered, but at ~$700, thoughts turned to building a laser cutter
– Realized that if building a laser cutter (or most anything else for that matter), a 3D printer could be useful for various brackets
– That turned into thinking that maybe a 3D printer should be first on the list
– Saw a YouTube video of someone building a 3D-printed clock
– Started thinking about creating 3D-generated clocks instead of wood, possibly eliminating the need for a laser cutter altogether.
– Started looking at various 3D printers
– Considered Creality and Prusa
– For building a clock with a 3D printer, a decent bed size (~300mm) would be nice for large gears, which rules out Prusa
– Looking at Creality, the Ender 5 Plus is certainly large enough, though I have little need for the height
– The Ender 5 Plus reminds me a bit of a Honda owner who replaces every part of the drivetrain, then claims how awesome his “Honda” is. I’m only partly kidding, because users are saying that after they replaced the Bowden tube, extruder, hot end, added a silent controller bd, and maybe upgrade the display, and power supply, it’s really good.
– This led to, “well, if all those parts have to be replaced in a brand new unit to make it really good, maybe I should build my own from scratch.”

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last month or so. Instead of starting from zero though, it made sense to at least start with an existing frame kit, and went with this design.

There is a lot more to the above printer build and you can find it over on the Midlana Builders Off Topic forum

I was thinking about driving Midlana to a new destination for some photo ops, but with it being 111 degrees F out there, that was put off.

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 🙂

12 January 2021

Just been working from home. With the pandemic going on, it’s hard to justify even going out for a fun drive. While the stay-at-home rules aren’t really being enforced regarding driving, and while being in an open top car is going to be pretty safe, it just seems better to avoid any potential situations. The virus is so unpredictable; one person will get it and have zero symptoms, while another will get it and be dead in a couple weeks.

Anyway, for work reasons I had to stop by a military base, and it was pretty funny seeing a Lotus Evora in the “Recruiting Staff” parking slot. I guess that’s one way to get people to sign up, showing the glamour that comes with the job!

In other news, a Midlana builder recommended F1 car designer, Adrian Newey’s autobiography, How to Build a Car. Being new to audio books I gave it a listen and it was very interesting, hearing all about both the design process and the issues involved in getting a car on-track. Just as interesting was hearing that many times, Ferrari would copy some new feature that they saw on other cars, couldn’t get it to work, so would then protest the teams using it. Nice…