1. Hey guyz. Welcome to the All New Phlatforum!

    Sign Up and take a look around. There are so many awesome new features.

    The Phlatforum is a place we can all hang out and

    have fun sharing our RC adventures!

  2. Dismiss Notice

Broomstick Builds the Phlatformer

Discussion in 'Phlatformer BUILD LOGS' started by Broomstick, Oct 5, 2010.

  1. Broomstick

    Broomstick New Member

    Trophy Points:
    The first thing that struck me about the Phatformer was the size of the box it came in. You got all that into a box that size? Very efficient packing, and the padding was adequate to the usual trauma of the US Post Office's handling of packages. Everything arrived intact. And by "everything" I do mean everything - the only really necessary tools not included were a knife and screwdrivers. Fortunately, we have those at home. In abundance.

    In fact, there soon arose a brief argume - er, discussion about the use of screwdrivers. Thunderhawk is very happy with the battery-powered screwdriver and bit set I gave him some time ago and was insistent I use it. I am partial to hand tools. It's not that I refuse to use power tools - in my current job it's required, in fact - but I didn't really see the need for the noise and bother. Also, the build video repeatedly said "use a screwdriver" as opposed to the drill used on the build video. I voted in favor of the words. Thunderhawk said "but HE's using a power tool!", voting in favor of the visuals. I eventually wound up using the powered screwdriver until I reached the part where I was attaching the vacuum chamber to the cabinet, when I went back to using hand tools. My personal opinion (which likely does diverge from Thunderhawk's) is that, barring some wrist or hand dysfunction (the reason I bought Thunderhawk his now favorite screwdriver in the first place) it really is better to use old fashioned hand screwdrivers rather than a powered one. It really is a bit too easy to overtighten screws with the power tools. On the other hand, if you're really in love with your power tools (looks briefly at husband) then they will certainly work just fine if you remember to not overtighten things.

    Where were we? Ah, yes - the stuff in the box.

    There is a LOT of stuff in that box. Including tape and glue, which I found pleasantly surprising as I'm sure we're all familiar with kits that have parts but require you to have all sorts of extra stuff like adhesives on hand. Not this kit. Everything you need for this kit (except screwdrivers, and a knife) really is in the box. Including gloves for handling hot stuff when you're actually using the machine. About the only thing they could have done more is to ask you your glove size before sending it, so you have a custom fit (no, not really a suggestion - the gloves are fine just the way they are).

    We opened the box and inspected all the various parts. Everything was intact.

    The one thing I did find odd was a complete lack of written instructions. OK, maybe I'm old fashioned, dating from the era before computers when we did math on slide rules but I am accustomed to working from paper, not a video. In fact, this is the first thing I've assembled something this complex without
    written instructions. This video thing is completely new to me. As it was completely new, I actually watched the whole video completely through before starting to build the machine. This was probalby overkill - I think I could have built it by just popping in the video and building along from the start, but I didn't know that then.

    We got out a folding table for me to work on, assembled the parts and tools, and started up the DVD again.

    The video build was very clear and easy to follow. I'll return later to the whole video vs. paper instruction thing in a bit.

    The assembly of the vacuum chamber was uneventful. I did clean out the weatherstripping channel with rubbing alcohol, but used a rag instead of a paper towel. The glue included really does come out of the bottle a little abundantly. When I pressed the parts together I used a damp rag to wipe up excess glue, I'd recommend having one on hand. Also, do be careful about not getting glue too close to holes or other places it shouldn't go.

    When I got to the point I needed to start fitting tabs into slots, though, there was a problem. It was an EXTREMELY tight fit. I tried sanding the tabs a bit, which didn't really help. There was a brief intermission in the build while we located a rubber mallet from my leatherworking tools. I needed to sand all the tabs and then use the mallet to gently drive the parts together, I simply could not do it strictly by hand. I used a rag (yes, we have a lot of rags in the house) between the MDF and the mallet so the mallet wouldn't mar the surface. It was annoying and slowed me down. On some of the parts with a lot of tabs and slots it got frustrating. On the other hand, with such a tight fit, the resulting machine is really, really solid and sturdy.

    I found the video very helpful in distinguishing some of the frame parts, the ones that hold the heated plastic, from each other. Mark showing both sides of each part and mentioning features like shapes or recessed holes was extremely helpful in making sure I didn't install or glue the wrong part or the wrong side to anything. I did deviate from instructions by using cyanoacrylic for gluing the magnets instead of the included glue, but I don't think anyone will be bothered by that. I was all for being a purist and strictly
    using what was in the box and following instructions exactly but Thunderhawk put the bottle of CA in front of me and... and... well, I succumbed to temptation, what can I say?

    I also used some spring clamps we had in our shop to help hold some of the parts together while the glue set up. Not necessary, but we had them and they're so darn useful I went ahead.

    About that time going to dinner seemed like a good idea, and it would give the glue time to dry. No, not the CA, of course, the other glue on the parts.

    Came back from dinner and started assembling the cabinet. This is where the mallet assembly technique really began in earnest. I wish to emphasis that everything lined up perfectly. There was no misalignment in registration. It's just that the fit between tabs and slots was so tight I had to use the mallet to drive them together. Like I said, I was gentle, and rotated around the piece so I didn't have one end driven down and the other still unattached, just did a little bit with each tap until everything was snug. I liked the screw and square nut assembly technique as well, it looks good and it's quite secure. As Mark says in the video, don't overtighten those screws!

    Next obstacle was when I went to attach the vacuum chamber to the cabinet. There are a lot of slots and tabs, so it took awhile to work everything together. Then, when I went to screw the chamber down I had a LOT of trouble getting the screws to "catch" the nuts. This was, hands down, the most frustrating part of the build. It's also when I abandoned the battery screwdriver for a hand one, as I seemed to have a better feel for what the screw was doing (or not doing) with the hand tool. I got three screws secured but could NOT get the others to grab their nuts (which sounds much naughtier than it actually is). Eventually, I got the mallet back out and gave everything a few more taps and that did the trick, I was able to screw the nuts onto the screws. I don't know if I just got lucky and the MDF on this particular kit was a bit thicker than anticipated or what, but it seemed the screws almost weren't long enough to do the job.

    Putting the levers together and onto the box went pretty smoothly, except after I got the second side done I realized I had put the first set on upside down. This is the only time I incorrectly installed something on the machine. I had a sinking moment of horror when I considered I had used a mallet to get that side together and now I had to unslot all the tabs. However, with gentle prying with fingers, I was able to disassemble the side safely and correctly install the levers. So yes, you can take your Phlatformer apart if you ever have a desire to do so, and it's not that hard to do it.

    Installing the hinges on the frame was a fiddly bit, but again, the instructions and demonstration were clear. It just required a little patience but they went on exactly as advertised. The weather stripping when on as shown as well, the only caution I'd have for people is to make sure, like with the metal foil tape, you don't let it curl back on itself and stick to itself. This isn't so critical with the grey weatherstripping, since there is ample supplied with the the kit and if you really had to you could cut a new piece, but you don't any extra of the orange-red weather stripping so you don't want to mess that one up.

    The second to last deviance from instructions was the use of silicon sealant to attach plumbing part P1 to part 19 under the vacuum chamber. This was another one of Thunderhawk's ideas/requests. The final deviation is that we will obtain a T-intersection so we'll be able to change which side the vacuum attaches to if we want to do so. With that in mind, I didn't bolt the vacuum attachment adapter on because, until we get a space cleared for it in the Mad Scientist Laboratory, we won't know for sure how the final set up will look. And we need a heating element. And probably a new fire extinguisher because ours got used last Friday but that had nothing to do with any Phlatproducts or Plat activities. Safety first, right?

    Thunderhawk says it took me six hours to build it. I'm sure there are people who have done it faster, but I wasn't looking for a speed record. I wanted it done right and done well, so I took my time positioning things when gluing, attaching, and screwing, and I did have to back track at one point due to my own error.

    Anyhow, in sum -

    The good:
    - You really do get everything in the kit (except knife and screwdrivers). You may choose to augment what is included, but you really do get all you need.
    - The parts are very nicely cut out - no splinters (my fingers thank you). No rough spots. Very little dust.
    - The video is very clear and comprehensive. Especially
    good are the descriptions and demonstrations of which part is which and which side is which, these are very important points for proper assembly and the video makes it clear what is what. This was a pleasant surprise to me, as I wasn't sure how well things would work out with just a video for instruction.
    - The resulting machine is SOLID. This thing is sturdy. I like sturdy, solid machines.
    - No gratuitous assorted sizes of hardware. OK, maybe it's a minor thing, but you have the same small screws and square nuts everywhere, all one size. While there is some other hardware what differs is because there's a reason for it to do so. I find kits where there are 14,531 different types of screws, bolts, nuts, washers, and other things annoying, particularly when there seems to be no discernible reason for such variety and you get the feeling that they chose what they used largely because, after sweeping the floor of the shop, that is what was in the dustpan. Also, it makes it harder to accidentally install the wrong hardware when, for the most part, it's all the same hardware.
    - Extra stuff! I'm not sure what we're going to do with the leftover foil tape and weatherstripping, but we'll eventually use it for something. Of course, we always have use for glue and tape.

    The bad:

    - The fit between tabs and slots on this kit was almost too tight. That might be a quirk of the particular sheets of MDF that wound up in this kit. I repeat that everything was perfectly aligned, this was not a matter of misregistration but just that the darn tabs/slots were so tight.
    - While the clear tape included in the kit will easily hold the small square nuts in place during assembly, it will NOT hold the larger bolts for the levers, the ones that take a flat screwdriver, later on in assembly. At least, not without multiple strips of the tape. It really doesn't work well. I tried it because I was attempting to follow the instructions as closely as possible, but I think the packing tape used in the video would work much better for the larger bolts than the tape included with our kit.
    - We didn't document the build. After I was done building Thunderhawk said "we should have taken pictures!" I said "Wuh....?", as I had not yet emerged from my creative haze/building frenzy. Yep, when I get focused on a project I forget to do things like take pictures or, for that matter, remember to cook dinner and eat.
    - For those of us who are dinosaurs, from an era before home video existed, the lack of written instructions and documentation can be... disconcerting. In other words, some old farts might find it scary to be without the written stuff and relying solely on video, perhaps for the first time. I would take such people by the hand and gently encourage them to try the new thing, saying that I, too, had my doubts but it really is painless, even sort of fun. Also, our Mad Scientist Laboratory has no provision for video. Which, in retrospect, is kind of crazy. I mean, Thunderhawk used to burn his own circuit boards and run a computer controlled lathe in there, but no video? Well, if we were that logically consistent we'd have to call the it the Sane Scientist Laboratory... Anyhow, I wound up assembling the Phatformer in the bedroom, because that's the only room in the house with a DVD player. While that was not a big issue for this project, it might be for others. I mean, I myself like building things and RC models and kits, but I would be opposed to turning the bedroom into a workshop. I can only imagine this would be more an obstacle for those with spouses who are not
    also involved with these hobbies. If only you had written instructions as clear and thorough as your video ones, you could please everyone...

    The unique to our household:
    - Parrots really like the metal foil tape. Ooo! Shiny!
    - Screws and nuts, almost as much fun! Ooo! More shiny!
    - Beware of beaks attempting to sample chew the MDF. Fortunately, it is a durable material and resistant to casual beak-testing. However, I would not permit pet birds unrestricted access as it is not invulnerable. We're talking about critters that, in the wild, peel pecans and other nuts about as easily as we peel oranges, and they have opposable digits. They're cute, but they do seemed designed to take things apart easily.
    - Really, just make sure the birds are distracted by something else, or in their cages. You really do not need their "help" for this project, although they will attempt to convince you otherwise. This is another downside to not being able to work in the Mad Scientist Laboratory, which is usually a bird-free zone, unlike some of the other rooms of the house.
  2. Klondar

    Klondar Member

    Trophy Points:
    Great Build story,

    As for the uniqueness, Is there ever "Really" a bird free zone??? :D Our "Too" Lulu make it a point to seek and test all new shiny objects and everything is her Toys. If you want it then She has to have it because it must be "cool and fun".

    So knowing this bit of information about your build makes it even more remarkable that you even finished... It would make a fun PhlatLab show to have Mark try and build one of the foamies with a Parrot helper. And they think the phlatprinter makes "Blue Snow".... :lol:


Share This Page