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Rice Paddy Planting

April 27, 2016
By

Spring Season

A Japanese farmer plants rice seedlings in his rice paddy.

A farmer plants rice seedlings in a partially flooded paddy in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan.

Japanese farmers have been in full force in their rice paddies in the last couple of weeks. As a result, once dry plots of farming land have suddenly been transformed  into flooded lakes of emerging greenery.

Rice farmers ride atop specially designed planting machines to embed neat rows of rice seedlings into the mud of their paddies.    The machines have large, broadly ribbed wheels designed for water and deep, boggy mud in the flooded rice paddies.

The machines come equipped with various arrangements of rotary planter mechanisms, fertilizer delivery boxes and driver seat positioning, amongst other features and components.

A rice seedling planting machine is loaded with seedling mats and fertilizer, ready to sow the season's rice crop.

A Kubota designed rice planting machine is fully loaded with rice seedling mats and fertilizer, and is ready to enter the flooded rice paddy to sow the season’s rice crop.

The machines typically vary in size from approximately 3-10 feet in width, with each planting a similarly varied number of seedling rows at a time.  The selection of the machinery is made depending on the size of rice paddies to be planted and the capitalization of the farming operations.

Rice seedling stock is germinated from seed in densely packed seedling trays during late Winter.  By Spring, the crowded seedlings form a sturdy mat of roots topped with vibrant 4-5 inch high blade leaves.

In preparation for planting, the young rice seedlings are removed from their germination trays as a complete mat and loaded onto the planter delivery systems at the rear of the machines.  Additional mats of seedlings are also stacked on racks by the farmers’ side, where they can be easily accessed and later loaded into the planting mechanism when seedling re-fills are required. This saves overly regular returns to the edge of the flooded rice paddy for seedling re-fills.

The rotating mechanism on the rear of the machines takes the  individual seedlings from the trays and inserts them into the water. The fragile seedling roots are embedded into the mud a few inches beneath the rice paddy’s water level.  Once planted and paddies are fully flooded, only a portion of the plants’ leaves appear above the surface of the water.

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Making a Home DIY Metal Sheet Bender

January 26, 2016
By
Precision Folds from a DIY Sheet Metal and Acrylic Bender

Precision 90 degree bends in 2mm thick metal plate, made by a DIY sheet metal, plastics and acrylic bending machine.

We suddenly had the desperate need to bend stuff in the workshop!

We are talking 2mm steel sheet.  And we were not wanting to just destroy it with low quality folds either, but to effectively and precisely bend it at pre-determined fold lines to produce professional looking folds repetitively, piece after piece.

In material like 2mm sheet metal, precise 90 degree bends with quality edges would normally be a relatively difficult and frustrating task for home DIYer’s without the right equipment – as just happened to be the case for us.

So we decided to work smarter and put the DIY gray matter into gear.

After some quick mental design work and an hour or two in the workshop, we had made our new Home DIY Sheet Metal Bending Machine – See the project page here.

The tool worked extremely well and did fantastic metal folds. We later realized it was also great for bending acrylic and other plastics too!

As it turns out, we had produced an extremely simple, but very effective design.

Our DIY sheet metal bender provides sharp and professional looking bends in 0.5mm to 2mm thick steel, tin and aluminum sheet. It also does a great job of folding acrylic and plastic of up to 10mm thick (with external heat).  Maybe even thicker!

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Growing Lettuce in the Japanese Freeze

January 22, 2016
By
lettucefreeze

Lettuce plants grow protected from frost and snow in the weak Winter sun.

winter-seasonFresh, abundant fruit and vegetables in year round supply are what most residents of the modern mega-cities of Japan have come to expect.   People rarely stop to consider exactly how any of the fresh produce got there, let alone giving extra thought to how it is grown during peak Winter seasons.

In reality however, the cold temperatures and conditions in rural Japan in Winter dictate a major difference in how vegetables need to be grown in the off season.  While Summer sees various farming techniques that protect crops from persistent heat, insects and high humidity, Winter farming calls for warmth and protection from bitterly cold winds, frost and snow.  As such, when the growing days become shorter, farmers all across Japan turn to plastic …  And mountains of it!

lettucefreeze5Frost protection tunnels for lettuce are a common sight in the agricultural areas of Japan in Winter.  Preparing and planting the tunnels with seedlings is a labor intensive activity.  Specialized machines are used to both mound the soil into raised rows as well as to stretch black plastic over the leveled mounds.  This aids heat capture and prevents weed growth as the seedlings develop.   The plastic liner is pre-cut with staggered holes positioned abreast for placement of the individual plants.  The liner has the edges automatically tucked neatly under the soil to secure it in place.

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Japanese Garden Flowers

July 17, 2015
By

Cosmos Flower

Bright garden flowers of Spring and Summer are always a delight to see.

In most parts of the world, the image of Japanese gardening is not usually associated with abundant use of brightly colored flowers. Most instead think of clean lines, meticulously clipped trees, bamboo fences and perhaps a water, or stone feature or two.

During the Spring and Summer months in Japan however, the beauty of colorful flowers are strongly embraced by most Japanese home gardeners. Western and European styled gardens have become extremely popular. Flowers of the late Spring and Summer tend to be bold in color and can be used as features against the many tones of flourishing green.

Rainfall is also regular and abundant, bringing lots of greenery as a base coloring for many gardens. Plants generally grow extremely easily in Japan once the growing seasons kick in.

There are all sorts of examples of garden sculptures and great uses of flower coloring in DIY gardens in Japan. It may surprise many, but even many ancient and traditional temple gardens often burst with color during the Spring flowering season.

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Fixing a Dremel® Hand Held Rotary Drill – A Step-by-Step Guide

May 26, 2015
By

 

Dremel® Multipro (Model 395) Rotary Drill.

There comes a sad time when all great and trusty tools in the workshop begin to die from overuse.

Murphy’s Law states that this must occur at the most inopportune time. In the case of our ever faithful hand held Dremel® MultiPro rotary drill, this breakdown just happened to be in the middle of an important PCB shaping, drilling and cutting project.  Our rotary drilling tool was mounted as a router on top of a mini CNC machine at the time.

Dremel® Hand Rotary Drilling Tool - Exploded Parts Anterior View

Dremel® Hand Rotary Drilling Tool – Exploded Parts
(Click to see our step-by-step hand held rotary drill strip down guide.)

When the problem started, the tool motor suddenly became erratic and there were problems with the variable speed control (VSC) switch. Then, the sliding switch no longer provided any motor speed control what-so-ever.  It only provided power ON at full speed – a heat blasting 35,000rpm …. and a silent OFF.  This wasn’t at all ideal for our CNC cutting project where cutter heat control was important.

So what was our obvious DIY reaction to this? Find the cause and fix the tool ourselves of course!

You can find photos showing how the internals of our Dremel® MultiPro tool looked here.  We have also provided a step-by-step dialogue on how the tool was taken apart; how the faulty part was found and replaced AND importantly, how the hand held drill was successfully put back together again!
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Lettuce Harvest in Japan

March 4, 2015
By
A sea of gradually maturing lettuce plants grow under a frost protection tunnels in Ibaraki, Japan.

A sea of gradually maturing lettuce plants grow under frost protection tunnels in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan.

winter-seasonWith greenhouses providing much of the warmth for germination and growth of lettuce seedlings in the Winter season, lettuce plants really don’t need much time in the ground in growing plots before being ready to harvest.  Growing conditions are suitable for multiple, staggered crops of lettuce almost year round in Japan.  All for except the peak Summer periods.

We mentioned the planting out process of lettuce in an earlier post, but in Ibaraki Prefecture, the last week or two has already seen the commencement of harvesting activity for some of that Winter grown lettuce crop.  Ibaraki Prefecture is an area well known for contributing to a significant portion of Japan’s annual 530,000 tonne  production quota.  The Ibaraki farming regions help supply the lettuce market demands of many cities within and surrounding the prefecture, including Tokyo.

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Greenhouse Farming in Japan

February 8, 2015
By

winter-seasonJapanese Winter temperatures plunge below freezing on a regular basis, despite skies often being bright, clear and sunny.  In these low temperatures, seed germination is usually impossible and growth usually grinds to a halt in any open air farming environment.  Snow and frost damage is also a very likely risk for most unprotected crops.   Greenhouses are therefore an important part of farming in Japan for both large and small scale operations.  Die hard DIY gardeners also use greenhouses to produce home grown food for their close knit families, friends and communities.

Winter Greenhouse Farming

Snow engulfs the greenhouses of a private DIY gardener in Japan.

Japanese greenhouses

Commercial scale greenhouses sit in the bright sunshine and bitterly cold Winter air in Japan.

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Replacing Japanese Tatami Mat Flooring

February 6, 2015
By
Japanese Tatami Room

A traditional Japanese tatami room with floor panels made of Igusa (rush) straw fibre.

Tatami rooms are a wonderful part of many Japanese homes. They are elegant and stylish.

But look up “Japanese tatami room” in any Japanese DIY handyman’s manual and within the first few paragraphs, any guide will likely mention the notorious requirement for constant care, cleaning and replacement of materials in order to maintain their appearance.

Most materials used in the construction and decoration of traditional tatami rooms are natural fiber products, including raw pine wood, rush fiber and rice paper. The rooms look and smell great when they are fresh and new, but deteriorate, yellow and mould with age.

Earlier, we provided tips for renewing aged and discolored rice paper on the Japanese Shoji paper doors of tatami rooms. Now we turn our focus to replacing tatami floor panels – a larger, more expensive and somewhat more involved renewal job.

Watch the making of Japanese tatami mats on Youtube here.

Traditional tatami floor panels are usually made from neatly woven mats of rush fibre (ie: Igusa plant) stretched over and sewn onto thick blocks of compacted straw from the same plant.

In recent years, lighter weight, synthetically backed tatami flooring panel alternatives have also become available. Some are often considered significantly inferior by traditionalists, but they do have benefits.

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Making DIY CNC Clamps and Knobs – Free G-Code Download

January 26, 2015
By
CNC DIY holddown clamp

Moving material blocks cause lots of failed CNC project attempts. Having ample CNC machine clamps on hand always helps prevent material movement problems.

There is nothing more frustrating than completing a lengthy DIY CNC design cut, only to find the wood or aluminium material block has moved during the program – rendering the material and entire project cut-out attempt  useless.

We “clamped down” on this problem long ago in our DIY workshop, but we always like to remind new CNC machine builders that you can never have too many clamps on hand.

The problems extending from small amounts of material slippage on a CNC table are often the hardest to identify.  The problems are often blamed on other machine components, such as faulty CNC motor driver controllers, slipping shaft joints, structural flex, or backlash.

We’ve found that many of these DIY workshop problems are solved by having ample clamps and clamping positions available for use on the machining table.  This ensures your projects stay securely in place and that they are cut correctly every time.

Hold down clamps in themselves are cheap and easy to make.  Three to six clamps made of 5-7 mm thick steel with a slight bend at one end (coated in a tough powder coat paint), is usually enough to hold wood or aluminium material blocks firmly in place for most projects.  Being made of steel, the clamps have some inherent ‘springiness’ in them making them easy to place on and off a part (unlike block aluminium clamp alternatives).

DIY CNC Hold Down Clamp Knob

Easy turn DIY CNC clamp knobs are quick, cheap and simple to make for yourself, with your own CNC machine!

Making the ‘easy turn’ DIY knobs for your CNC machine clamps is also super easy …. using your CNC machine!

With our free g-code, dxf and crv files available for download, you don’t even need to design the knobs yourself. You can download the files and import them into your CNC machine design software right now!

The downloadable knob design provided is sized for M8 bolt heads (ie: bolt shaft diameter 8mm, head hex width 13mm) embedded in 13mm thick high density plastic material, but the basic CNC machine g-code or crv design file (for Ventric and other compatible design software)  can easily be resized, recoded, or redrawn to suit other bolt sizes and material thickness’s. Read more »

Home DIY Electrostatic Powder Coating

November 2, 2014
By
Electrostatic Powder Coating Spray Unit

DIY electrostatic powder coating requires some upfront investment in workshop equipment, but the surface coating results are worth every cent!

brush-100x100We can’t rave enough about electrostatic powder coating in our DIY workshop.

Why? Because even when most liquid paints let us down completely, electrostatic powder coat paints consistently give our metal DIY parts and projects an extremely professional looking finish.

There are no spray cans, liquid solvents or messy paint brushes involved in powder coating.

The paint is supplied as a dry, finely milled powder and applied using a specially designed electrostatic spray gun.

The array of powder coat colors available, with finishes, metallic effects and textures to suit any DIY project desire or need, is stunning. Powder coated finishes are quality coatings which are thick, vibrant and extremely scratch resistant.  They last!

With powder coating equipment available, a fully protective dimpled coating in an exotically wild metallic red or green color over a metal surface is simple to achieve – whether with or without an holographic like lustre! As is a a more conservative, yet very professional looking coating of silky matte black.

The ability to spray this level of coating quality at home expands all sorts of DIY project horizons.

Unlike liquid paints, powder paint can be applied evenly in one shoot without the risk of dripping or sagging. Over spray can be easily swept up and re-used.

Following a paint shoot, the coating is cured by heat treatment. Then, after just 20 minutes in a workshop oven …. the job is done!  The parts are good to go!
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