The First Maker Space and Tech Community For Markham, Richmond Hill, Thornhill, & Vaughan.

Main dome
New paint job on the dome

Ylab’s home at the DDO has been undergoing an extensive restoration since the spring. As scaffolding is starting to come down,  it’s looking amazing.

The work has been extensive. Removing all the old lead paint without getting it in the environment. Carefully restoring all the windows to their original state – right down to the ropes on the counterweights for the original casements.


Three smaller domes on tops of the admin building

The administration building’s three smaller telescope domes got the same treatment. Parts of those were removed during the restoration and have now been replaced.


Windows and copper flashing around roof.
The more difficult semi-circular and round windows

Work is continuing. They’ve saved the most difficult semi-circular and round windows for last, and they are making great progress.

For one small group (us), the best news of all is that we may soon be allowed back in to our maker space rooms. We are working with the City on the protocols and requirements to keep everyone COVID-safe. 

Stay tuned!

We’ve had  post or two about problems with certain MasterCraft tools. We also posted about it on facebook where Canadian Tire responded, asked us for contact info, and then… crickets.

So just to show that I’m not just a whining complainer…

I’ve had a Craftsman ratchet for… decades. Let’s not give away our age. About a decade ago, it broke. Sears Canada by that time had strayed and replaced their high-quality hand tools with some inferior stuff. I refused the exchange, thinking I would take it with me on a future trip to the US for exchange there. They did give me a repair kit, which turned out to be the wrong one. So it sat in the back of the tool box.

Lowes recently started selling Craftsman tools, and announced that they would honor the lifetime warranty on the Craftsman hand tools – even the old ones from Sears. Yeah! So I dug it up from the toolbox, walked in to Lowes. Wow! It looks like the quality Craftsman of old! But when I went for the exchange… I was told no. I had to take it up directly with Craftsman.

Harrumph. So I checked the web site. The wording was unequivocal – bring it in to the store, and we’ll replace it.  I emailed Lowes Canada.

And they responded! The local store manager contacted me – on the phone! Came out to see me when I went in to the store! And I have a new ratchet!

Way to go, Lowes! Nice to see a great line of tools is back with the great original warranty.

We just happened to pick this one

Our recent fix-it night posts here and here seem to have a common thread: crappy Crappy Tire tools that need repairing. This week… well, we didn’t intend to pick on them. It was just the luck of the draw.


Small 12V tire compressors – the type that plugs into the cigarette lighter 12V accessory socket on your car – have cheap clips or screw-on ends to connect to the tire valve. Those ends are called air chucks. Probably because you need them to chuck air into the tire. The air chuck is always what seems to break on these stupid things. The rubber wears out on the clip types, the screw-on type doesn’t seem to match the threads on the valve, or they just plain fall apart. The rest of the compressor is fine. Go to Canadian Tire – and just to show we’re not picking just on them – Princess Auto or your other favourite hardware store, and none of them sell replacement parts. Hey, we try to buy local.

We have three with broken or very leaky air chucks. This is the one we grabbed for the repair. Anyone know what store sells the MotoMaster brand?

Fortunately, a certain large on-line shopping store has the part… once you figure out that it’s called after typing in things like valve… clip… air… tire.

We found a pack of two of these premium metal units for pretty cheap. We just happened to have an extra hose clamp lying around.

Next step is to get the old one off. You can try wresting with the crimped metal sleeve. That might be futile if glue was also applied. If you have enough hose, just cut it off.

The old worn-out clip type air chuck. The rubber inside is hard and cracked, no longer providing a seal.

Be sure to put the hose clamp on the hose before inserting the tube of the new chuck.

Tighten it up. This clamp might have been a little big… but it’s what we had.

Cut off the end with a tin snip or a chisel, and it’s better than new. In this case, way better than new with a far superior chuck.

Yeah, the two others we have are not MotoMaster brand. But we’re pretty sure we bought them at Crappy Tire.

Case closed. Desktop too.

We posted earlier about our project to make a lockable enclosure for the reception desk of our home, the David Dunlap Observatory. We left that post with a pretty crappy picture. Protective plastic was still covering it. 

Test usage showed an area for improvement. Sliding everything into place would work better with some handles.

Two at the front to guide into the locking tabs so we don’t hurt our dainty little fingers. Another one at the back to help slide it into the support brackets hidden under the top panel. All held in place with some strong rivets to prevent tampering.

A couple of coats rattle-can clear enamel and it’s ready to go. 

Here’s the overhead view from our amazing drone-cam.

Well, not really. We don’t have a drone. We just went up the stairs. But they’re really cool stairs. 


More tool repair

Nose to the grindstone

Last week we posted about our evening repairing crappy Crappy Tire tools. One tool  could not be fixed. Here once again is our picture of a pair of side-cutters that broke simply doing what side-cutters are supposed to do.

Reminds us of the old mechanic’s joke about there being two types of tools – Snap-On and snap-off.

Can’t fix… or so we thought.

Our metal master Miro wasn’t there that evening. He read the post and sent in a message: “We can fix that!”

How? Welding?

Nah.  It’s said that sculpting is easy – start with a piece of stone or clay, and take away everything that doesn’t look like your subject.

In this case, Miro ground it away.

And kept grinding.


Until it looked like this.

Compare that to the picture at the top!

The side cutters are now a little stubbier, but fully functional. They seem to cut better than before. Yes, it’s the same side cutters. The Mastercraft logo appears to have left out of embarrassment.

We also brought in some old drill bits that we soaked in rust remover. That stuff works wonders. But how well will the bits work? Has the edge been deteriorated by the rust?

Ylab member Gilles brought us a pretty amazing drill bit sharpener from the golden age of Black and Decker. Search all you want at any of the local hardware stores and you won’t find anything like this rig.

You pop the bit into the holder, and it holds it at the perfect angle for sharpening. The chuck has a nice indexing feature to rotate the bit exactly 180 degrees to sharpen both of the cutting edges. Nice depth control too so that the two cutting edges will be at exactly the same depth.

It only took a few seconds and the bit came out like new.

We sharpened up a few. Well, at least three. Because this is no two-bit operation.

Persistence pays off.

For our last bit of catching up on what’s been happening over the last few months, we get to show off some of the new materials ylab members have introduced to our maker space at the David Dunlap Observatory.

The laser cutter is always the touchiest thing. Before any new material goes on there, we look into the safety issues. The C in PVC stands for chloride. Not good. Similar issue with those nice chemicals in outdoor-grade plywood. Some of us recall – and frankly, wish to forget – that leather was deemed safe. Until we tried it. It smelled like a burning cow. Not the good BBQ kind.

But our members, if nothing else, are persistent. Member Dan of (a.k.a. Chewbacca) brought in some sheepskin that looked different enough to try. Great results for both cutting and engraving without affecting the local air quality index.

Sheepskin pattern all laid out after cutting. Way faster than punching in all those little holes/

Engraving works!

Ylab members Bryan and Craig have been exercising our Qidi 3D printer. It’s been stable through – the record so far – a 25 hour print job. But the result has always been that hard plastic stuff – ABS or PLA.

Bryan wanted something a little more flexible, and looked into thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). It’s a nice flexible material – kind of like silicone. Safety checks out. Temperature parameters check out – compatible with our 3D printer. 

First test: big fail. We think the material, in its spool form, was not rigid enough to be pulled through by the 3D printer’s printhead feeder gear. It melted but was not driven through.

But sheer bloody-mindedness diligence and persistence paid off. Bryan kept researching the issue, and found that, like other 3D printer materials, printing the right source and supplier makes a difference.

After a few tries, here’s the result – a nice, flexible disk. 

Will it bend?

Yes it will!

Bryan says his next attempt will be using the dual-extruder feature for a combined print of rigid and flexible materials.

Our final material is simple foam. Even if it’s safe, it can get all melty in the laser cutter. Melty good for 3D printer. Bad for laser cutter.

Ylab member Richard his own solution – a hot-wire foam cutter. Just hook up to DC power supply (we have that!) and it’s good to go.

Looks like a really skinny bandsaw.

Fast, no mess and a perfect curve.

We’ll be setting up classes and seminars for these new materials and featuring them at our open houses. Stay tuned.

We have a bunch tools at ylab, and some of them from Crappy Tire. We can call them that – after all, Canadian Tire fought for the use of that name. You would normally think we would be using their tools to fix other things. Nope. We had to fix the tools.

This  Mastercraft drill is about 4 years old, the first 3 1/2 years being unused in a unopened box. Still new, but out of warranty. We used it about 4 times… and it died. No grinding noises. No sparks. Just… stopped.


Opened it up, did a big of poking, and the problem was obvious. That white wire at the bottom coming out of the power cord. It goes into the power trigger. Just touched it, and it came right out. On the other side of that trigger control is a screw that had to be tightened to hold it in place. It was never tightened.


This is the model number, in case you want to not make the mistake of buying this drill. But it is working fine now that we’ve fixed it.

Then we come to our Crappy Tire pliers set. Probably about 3 years old, but still relatively lightly used.

Those insulating handle grips should not be sliding off like that. One of our members has a lightly used set at home that’s doing the same thing, so it’s not just us. We’re testing some decent quality spray adhesive to see if that will hold it in place.

Then there’s the side cutters. Let’s zoom in a little closer


When you’re snipping a wire, it’s the end of the wire that’s supposed to snip off, not the end of the side cutter.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a way of fixing that. Well, some of our members do… but it would not be worth the time and effort.

Come on, Crappy Tire. You should be doing better than that.