IkeHaus: completing the roof; nameplate; moving Ike in!!

General effects of this project on my wallet:

Commence primary ignition.

Commence primary ignition.

Finishing the project

Mundane detail: took me several nights and 4 coats of overly-expensive non-toxic waterproofing, but now Ike can (and I assure you, he will) be as stupidly messy and gross as he wants… and I can wash all the internals with dish soap and water, and not have to worry about staining the wood.  But that is not the story you came here to read.


Prior to another trip to the Yale CEID…

Yet another trip to the lovely CEID to do some work on this project, this coat of arms is a product of the self-same workspace!

Yet another trip to the lovely CEID to do some work on this project, this coat of arms is a product of the self-same workspace!

… I spoke with Alex, the guy whose project was my inspiration to do my own with my additions and tweaking and the like (and my thanks to him for his help in thinking and talking through how I want to do the IkeHaus, and what worked with his setup), and he mentioned he uses a product called the Herpstat Pro to control his lights and fans… but that is $400, and takes the fun out of building the WHOLE project myself.  So, I decided to stick with my initial inclination of doing the Raspberry Pi to network the controllers for the electronics.  That said, many thanks to Alex for his great idea that inspired me, and his pointers on lighting and wattages!!

I also had a chance to catch up with Paul, the employee at Home Depot Hamden, who was instrumental in helping me realize I could make an effective notching system to hold the walls in place, instead of the pain of fastening the walls in multiple places.  This system is what allows me to set up or take down the whole enclosure in something like 7 minutes or less.  Paul and I, reveling in the victorious project:

Paul from Home Depot Hamden and I.  Paul had the excellent idea of the notches in the base and roof, for keeping the walls in place without hardware!

Paul from Home Depot Hamden and I. Paul had the excellent idea of the notches in the base and roof, for keeping the walls in place without hardware!

The remainder of the physical construction centered around the roof alcove for wiring, and building a locking lid on hinges so 1) I can easily stow the cables in it during transportation, but moreso 2) to allow me to have access to all the wires without having to take the enclosure apart, if ever I needed to do so.  I used half inch plywood, which was a bit small for the hinge screws… I realized, quite madly, as I split through the wood 😦   Even so, I think it turned out looking alright:

interior steel handles as tie-down points for wires, making it less messy than it might appear :)

interior steel handles as tie-down points for wires, making it less messy than it might appear 🙂

Even still, the wiring alcove looks nice, and is also framed into place by the nameplate.  Many thanks to the CEID, and specifically Ellen (one of the student employees there, who put up with my lots last weekend and helped me use the laser cutter for this finishing touch), as the laser cutter allowed me to put a polished name and set of details onto the top of the enclosure.  The laser cutter is yet another aspect of CEID which is like a science fiction movie in real life (alongside things like 3D printing), and one of the few areas of this project of mine which I didn’t already know how to do well or had at least some experience with; so I am very grateful for the help!

the laser is actually visible as it burns through the birch plywood. to make the nameplate!

the laser is actually visible as it burns through the birch plywood. to make the nameplate!

On either side of the nameplate, then, one will soon find two rather small (4 rows of 20 character lines) backlit LCD screens.  These each need between 7 and 11 lines to control them, so that meant I need to use 2 Raspberry Pi computers (as each only has 17 lines, and I have many other things that need controlling!).  The right side LCD is controlled by the RasPi which takes care of a certain set of controls (lower sensor, electricity usage monitor, the fluorescent fixtures, and the three halogens).  The left side LCD is controlled by the RasPi in charge of the high-priority controls – the upper temperature sensor, the exhaust/intake fans, and the ceramic heat emitter (basically, the system for detecting too much heat and then dealing with it, by cycling the air, and if needed, turning off the VERY hot ceramic emitter).  The data displayed on them switches every 20 seconds or so, meaning a person watching Ike will quickly be able to gain a sense of everything from the ambient temperature and relative humidity of the enclosure, to seeing how much longer the enclosure has to run to pay itself off via electricity savings (having gone from 700 watts to 235 watts for 14 hours per day, it is not going to be THAT long).  This and more await you, so come visit Ike and I, and see for yourself. More on this in the next (and final) blog post for this project, hopefully coming soon!

Not like I planned and thought through this WAYYYYY too much or anything, right?? RIGHT??? :\

Video of Ike enjoying his new digs

The last portion of this stage of the project, of course was moving Ike into his gorgeous new IkeHaus.  Thusly, please enjoy this brief video showing Ike enjoying himself, the general layout of the land to scale with him, his refusing to move when the camera is on, and more:


Thusly we come to the photo gallery for this project:

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IkeHaus: finishing the roof and building the internal Ziggurat

Finishing the majority of the structural work

So, after sleeping until 2pm on Sunday, I was still QUITE tired.   This is how I looked, according to photographic evidence recovered by the crews who explored my lair after the fact:

EXHAUSTED after the 17 hour day on Saturday

EXHAUSTED after the 17 hour day on Saturday

That, I initially intended to get homework done on Sunday.  HEH.  I actually did, but then asked my housemate Amber if she wanted to get food (she did), so then we decided to go to Buffalo Wild Wings… which happens to be across the street from a Home Depot AND a Petco.  So we considered going into them (we did) and I spent more money ( 😦 ) but purchased the small handful of components still needed for the internal structure; the fluorescent light fixtures for the roof; and some electrical parts.  Also made a run to JoAnn Fabrics and BARELY got there on time, but successfully bought some green canvas to make the hammock for Ike.

Fluorescent light fixtures, and prepping the roof for its eventual finished look

So, I drove back to the CEID and got set up for a “short” evening of work.  HEH.  The roof needed a small set of things done:

1) fluorescent fixtures wired up, installed, tested and NOT catching fire
2) figuring out how to run the wires for those fixtures on the TOP of the roof without making it look crappy
3) installing steel handles on the roof to make it easier to move, match it aesthetically with the base
4) make sure that there will be space to put a marquis reading “IkeHaus” across the front of the top (more on this in Part 3 of this mini-series on my blog)

These things were all done, over some indeterminate period of time, during which I somewhat selfishly decided to play music (again) in the CEID to make work go easier.  The wiring for the fixtures was done with a heavy-duty extension cord, which I got to cut apart and wire into the setup.  The damned thing was GORGEOUS when it all lit up and didn’t catch fire:



The Ziggurat

At some indeterminate point, I finished the roof work, and gazed upon the pile of spare wood components along with the small aluminum sheet and extra floor tile I purchased earlier in the evening.  The volume of the IkeHaus is a smidgen over 112 gallons (Ike’s old hovel was a mere 29 gallons, and a tall tank, so VERY small perimeter for him to run around).  This means 1) I need to make use of the vertical space effectively and 2) I would like to match the aesthetics of the rest of the project with the internal fixture; without 3) having it break easily or look crappy.

Thusly, my mind (fueled by Buffalo Wild Wings and Froyo World) wrote on the back of a receipt from dinner to design a Ziggurat (the official name, now), as a flat-topped pyramid with some kind of steps would solve the issue of providing Ike a cave to hide from the heat if needed; a platform to bask; and a method of climbing (and if needed, staying at any height) to the top of the platform.

The build, I will admit, took me a GREAT deal of time.  But the thing will NEVER fall apart, it even features a two-level internal cave… and the hammock hangs off the side (and in fact, the green canvas is the only color to the whole project… which is white, black, grey, and brown otherwise 🙂 ).  Take a look:

the Ziggurat standing in all its ladder'd, ramp'd, and hammock'd glory

the Ziggurat standing in all its ladder’d, ramp’d, and hammock’d glory

I departed the CEID around 3:45am on 4/8/2013, and got the components into the house (having spent approximately 9 hours in the CEID, for a total of 26 hours there over a two day period).  I got the components into the house, and I think it looks pretty damned good, set up in the basement:

(MOSTLY-) finished setup, in the basement

(MOSTLY-) finished setup, in the basement

This means, then, that hopefully over this coming weekend, I will be able to finish the project, which will involve:

1) laser-cutting “IKEHAUS” into a wood marquis for the front of the top of the roof
2) get the Raspberry Pi talking to the sensors, computer intake/exhaust fans, and controlling the lights (though as time goes on, I am realizing that the amazing RasPi is great at many things, but not necessarily precisely-timed events, so I might need to stick an Arduino into the design to control all the timed events… along with:
3) I want to get two small backlit LCD screens (possibly this one) to put atop the roof, on either side of the marquis, for the purpose of displaying important data (at this point, number of hours of life out of each light bulb; how much electricity this new design has saved over time; the amount of money saved as a result; the point in time when the electricity savings has paid off the STUPIDLY expensive costs of the IkeHaus; perhaps automated reminders of which days to feed Ike worms, versus vegetables and fruits… and more)
4) I will need to wire those LCDs from the front to the back of the top of the roof, alongside the fluorescent fixture wiring… and then I will buy some nice looking wood to cover that channel.
5) I got a simple vinyl white sticker of the CEID logo, and I will indeed find a tasteful place to put it on the finished product
6) any other final touch-ups and last-minute details

Until those components come in + I have time to do this… the trick is to NOT plan out and build an automated butternut squash growing box, so I don’t have to buy him that from the grocery store any more.  Must. Not. Spend more money by building more awesome networked things. MUST. NOT. &c…




Slideshow of the build during and at the end of Day 2:

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The IkeHaus is upon us – designing and building a portable and Internet-connected bearded dragon enclosure from scratch

Icarus eunt domus

As followers of this blog know, I have put lots of time and money into building a rather lovely initial home and hearth for Icarus the bearded dragon.  But time, as we know, goes on… and Ike has this tendency to grow on. And on and on.  So, between his needing more space to flourish, and the fact that an all-glass aquarium 1) leaks heat and thus forces me to spend a lot of money on those heat lamps (like 650 watts during the day time); 2) scares Ike by showing him his own reflection (he is fun, but dumb… so very dumb); and 3) having to reach down into the tank to get him out FREAKS him out due to my hand looking like a predator… it is time for something Very Different.  How different, you might ask?  Read on.

Planning it out.

Planning the enclosure out at work

Planning the enclosure out at work

After doing some careful professional research, I found a handful of useful posts about ideal enclosure materials, the notion of building a custom enclosure (though that specific terrarium was not exactly what I was looking to make, as it is super heavy and non-portable), and then a specific clever design, which I realized would easily and effectively commend itself to making some portable and easily dismantled/reconnected when I eventually move out of Winchester House.  These percolated in my brain and helped me consider the dimensions and other particulars that are important to me, culminating in something like this list:

1) needs to neither melt nor burn down
2) needs to use less than the 650 watts of daytime lighting of the current, heat-leaking design
3) needs to incorporate both passive vents, and active fans, which will use 120mm computer fans to simulate wind
3b) the rear of the case exterior needs space to hold the various electronic components and wiring
4) the case will need to include small basking platforms, perhaps a hammock, and other accoutrements for Ike
5) the entire design will need to be simple yet strong; secure yet easy to take apart for transportation

As one can see, even from the above early photo (I ended up with something like 12 sheets of planning lists and drawings), I have put a great deal of thought into this, and am looking forward to it being QUITE the nice condo for our scaly friend.  When combined with the fact that the setup will include sensors to a computer, which will control the lights and fans… over the network, I would like to think I have a snazzy, malarkey-free construction project ahead of me this weekend.

Buying the materials

An unexpected benefit of my lovely new Passat - ideal for transporting bearded dragon enclosure supplies from Home Depot

An unexpected benefit of my lovely new Passat – ideal for transporting bearded dragon enclosure supplies from Home Depot

So with plans in hand, it was again that time again.  Specifically, the time when I further bankrupt myself on behalf of Ike, my dumb but loveable friend.  To some degree, I think my childhood spent reading and loving Foxtrot with Jason and his pet iguana Quincy was instrumental in my interest in eventually having a pet lizard, and then involving the little herp in all manner of technological projects and improvements to his living conditions… when all he wants is a LOT of sun, and a LOT of bugs.

This week has seen several trips to the Home Depot nearest me, each time grabbing a few more of the supplies so I would be able to parse out with certainty whether or not I had planned for everything.  My intention is to build nearly the entire enclosure (save for the roof with its light fixtures, and the software side of the computer) this weekend on Saturday… meaning I will start at 5am tomorrow down at the CEID to avoid the rush, get the first pick of workspace and tools, and to have some blessed quiet.

Building the damned thing Part 1: everything but the lighting, internal Ziggurat and computer control

So, after another long week of school and so forth, I went to CEID and unloaded the car, and then parked it around the corner on Grove Street (and paid a good $18 worth of quarters to park there for the day).  Got all the components inside, claimed several worktables (being there first, being mean, and having a LARGE project, when combined with my physical size and krav threat level, means I wasn’t going to easily brook argument for those spaces 😡  ).  Did a great deal of thinking to start after setting the tiles out onto the plywood base, and realized that the Home Depot employee I spoke with was right – I should just use the small wooden dowels to make slotted spaces in the base (and eventual roof) and avoid actually bolting/affixing the walls to the verticals.  So, I started off by putting the rubber feet on the bottom of the plywood, and then the steel carrying handles – this meant I could set it down on either side with a screw sticking through the other side and NOT scratch the tables.  The next step was to trace out the various poplar boards onto the plywood base, and then trim them to size.  This was followed by a GREAT deal of time sizing out the whiteboard side and back walls and making sure they were going to fit.  This assured, I affixed the base’s boards and dowels, and then began construction on the vertical L’s.

Lunch break happened, involving DELICIOUS Peruvian burrito and plaintains.  Then, back to the grind.  The verticals and notches in the base held the walls up without a problem AND with the tile laid out.  This meant I got to go ahead and cut the damned Lexan by hand… which, by the way, I would STRONGLY advise against ever doing.  Ever.  That said, got it cut to size, and taped the outside edges with professional grade gaffer’s tape, then got to installing the hinges and latches.

This was eventually followed by sizing out the top for the roof materials, and traveling (again) to Home Depot to buy the plywood piece as well as the GIGANTOR 114mm drill bit I needed to cut out the vent and fan holes into the walls.  More money spent on this damned thing, I returned and delved back into the project.  12 vent holes later, I got to building the roof with its notches for holding the walls in place.  Installed the vent covers and then the 120mm computer fans and their mesh covers, and those looked pretty good to me.  The roof was all that remained… I had to drill through 28 gauge steel plating, because its 2500 degree melting point means I wanted it between the HOT lights and the plywood roof… but it turns out that was a PAIN to drill with the tools at the CEID.  But I did it, and the lights stay in place.

All told, I was in the CEID from approximately 7:00am until 12:45am, though I had to drive to Home Depot in the evening.  A long day, but a damned good one.

One photo in big, for the last thing I did Saturday night before passing out:

Progress as of 1:30am, 4/7/2013

Progress as of 1:30am, 4/7/2013


Finally, here is a slideshow of the build in progress, from 4/6/2013

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