I try to remember to write these monthly updates somewhere near the middle of each month. I nearly missed June, and I’ve had a surprising amount of stuff going on!

I’ll try to do a better job next month.

I’m learning to flip open a knife

I’m not a knife guy, and I have no idea what I’m doing. Brian gave me an amazing EDC knife a few weeks ago. It is the Saros from Hathaway Knives, and it is a work of art.

The Saros has an extremely sharp S35VN blade housed in a single-piece titanium handle. I’m told that Gabe Hathaway wanted to create a knife with as much blade as he could fit into the sleekest carrying dimensions, and I’m quite confident that he succeeded. The titanium handle feels great, and the handle is only a few millimeters longer than the blade.

Now that I own a cool knife, I need to learn to quickly flip it open. When you do it right, it makes a satisfying click, and it makes me feel really cool. I rarely fail when I flick the knife open with my right hand, but I don’t do nearly as well with my left. I’m still practicing, though!

Brian is giving away a pair of Saros knives on his blog. There’s still some time left to enter his contest!

More miles on my Gotway Tesla electric unicycle

Six weeks ago, I upgraded from my little InMotion V5F EUC to a Gotway Tesla V2. The Tesla has three or four times more power, double the cruising speed, and more than double the range of my old unicycle. It is also 20 pounds heavier, but that’s only a problem when I need to carry it around by the handle!

I haven’t been riding as much as I’d like lately. I’ve only managed to get about 160 miles in on my new wheel so far, and most of that was in the first week or two. After that, we had nearly two weeks of rainy days. Then it started getting hot here in Texas.

I’m excited about this rear-view mirror I picked up from Amazon. The shape is good, and when I manage to position it in just the right spot on my hand, I have no problem peeking over my shoulder while I’m riding. I’m going to need to find a way to attach it to my wrist guard, and if I do it correctly, it’ll always sit in the right spot, too.

These mirrors were difficult to find. I knew they existed. I saw one in a video somewhere. Searching for “hand mirror” returns entirely the wrong results. For some reason, these are listed as snowmobile mirrors. Why is that? Who knows!

Repairing and breaking more FPV drones

I’ve been limping along for quite a while with my two nearly identical FPV freestyle miniquads. They both have motors that are starting to sound crunchy. One has a failing camera. They can both use a video transmitter upgrade.

I’ve been holding off an repairs in the hopes that some new, interesting motor would show up on the market. I got sick of waiting. I ordered another two sets of the same Hyperlite 2207.5 1922kv motors that I’ve been flying for the last 18 months.

I like the way they feel, and I figure that if they’ve held up for most of the last 18 months, then they must be sturdy motors. I may as well continue using them, even if that seems boring.

I decided to first upgrade and repair the quad with the failing camera. I replaced the Runcam Eagle with a Runcam Phoenix 2, the AKK X2 VTX with a TBS Unify Pro32 HV, and I swapped out all four motors.

I powered the quad up on the bench to test the video feed and check that the motors were all spinning. One was spinning the wrong way, so I walked it over to my computer. I powered the quad back up, reversed the motor in blheli32suite, then I hit the disconnect button.

When the aging Tekko32 4-in-1 ESC rebooted, I heard the first couple of startup tones from the motors when all of a sudden the ESC burst into flames! That was the end of my fun for the night.

A few days later, I swapped motors on the other quad, and it is flying just fine. The crunchy noise is gone. I’ve noticed that this quad’s Flowride frame has two arms that are getting soft and twisty, so I’m definitely going to need to CNC a fresh frame for that build.

I think I have an iFlight 50a 4-in-1 ESC board here to put into the dead quad. With luck, that’ll be the only component that needs replacing!

I explained why I’m not manufacturing my Kestrel quadcopter frame

It seems I had a lot to say about this. You can go read the 4,000 words I wrote about it, or maybe I’ll just give you a summary here!

The entire FPV drone market is small, and the market for 3” HD freestyle drones is even smaller. I have had a particular retail price point in mind since the beginning, and there’s no way I can reach that. In fact, I’m not even sure I could safely and comfortably sell frames at the Acrobrat’s price point.

3-Inch Kestrel with 4-Inch props

When I started designing the Kestrel frame, the Acrobrat’s gummy suspension was a novel and seemingly useful idea. Improvements in Betaflight, blheli, and the RPM filter have made this feature less necessary.

There’s more to it than that, but those are the most important points.

We put a 3250 mAh 2S battery pack on a Toothpick 3 drone

I love the Outcast Droneworks 3250 mAh high-discharge 2S 18650 pack. Long range isn’t really my thing, but I get a kick out of what this battery enables.

I crammed gentle 4” props onto my 3” Kestrel, and I was able to record 6 miles or 19 minutes of HD footage, whichever comes first. I’m amazed that my quad built for a 16-volt battery even flies at 6 volts. Those weren’t the smoothest flights, but I never did any tuning for the low-voltage battery.

We were out flying at the golf course a couple weeks ago, and I happened to have my 3250 mAh battery with me. We were curious what would happen if we put it on Brian’s 3” Toothpick 3 build. He doesn’t have GPS, but he does have a timer!

Brian flew for about 18 minutes, then we started hearing warning beeps. His goggle battery was running low! He had to hand his radio off to me, and I flew his Toothpick for another 9 minutes. Total flight time was just seven seconds short of 27 minutes, and we didn’t even start with a fully charged battery!

We didn’t have a scale out there. I’m guessing he’d come in somewhere around 150 grams with this battery.

What do you do with a setup that can cruise quickly like this for 27 minutes? Brian has a 900 MHz Crossfire receiver on there, so he should be able to fly pretty far. Maybe we’ll come up with a cool use case.

Have I been hacking my coffee?

About two weeks ago, I saw one of James Hoffmann’s old videos about hacking your Americanos. He suggested removing the crema from the shot of espresso before adding hot water. Many of the larger coffee solids are in the crema along with a dense concentration of the less enjoyable flavors.

I don’t make Americanos. I make sugary milk drinks with espresso. I figured I’d try it anyway.

I was unhappy with the beans I was brewing at the time. This was the second batch of these beans that I’d roasted, and this time I roasted them a bit darker, because they weren’t pulling well the first time. The flow was better now, but I still had a bitter aftertaste that I wasn’t enjoying. Spooning away the crema from the espresso was like a night-and-day difference with these beans.

I’ve tried it on two other beans since then, but the difference in taste hasn’t been as dramatic. At any rate, I’m excited to have a new tool available to correct my lattes when things just aren’t tasting right!

I’m waiting for a new 3D printer

My old MakerFarm Prusa i3 printer that I bought used sometime in 2014 died last month. The connector on the RAMPS board that supplies power to the heated bed melted. It is a problem that could be easily corrected, but I decided it is time for an upgrade.

I was hoping to buy a Prusa MINI for $349, but the Prusa store said they won’t even be available to order again until September. The $999 pre-assembled Prusa Mk3 machines said they have a lead time of 5 to 6 weeks, and that seemed much more reasonable to me. Sure, I have to pay more, but it is also a better printer!

My order went through almost exactly four weeks ago, so I’m hoping that it will be shipping in the next few weeks. Today the store is saying lead time for both new and existing orders is 9 to 10 weeks. Is that 9 to 10 weeks from today? Is this 5 weeks longer than I expected?

Who knows.

Slow progress on the OoberLights project!

I’m a terrible software developer. I got some ad hoc sample animations up and running on the OoberLights pretty quickly. Now I’m at the point where I need to set up some sort of foundation that allows multiple animations to run on the same set of LEDs simultaneously.

I’m bad at this part. Some of the prototypes are currently on their way to our very best hardware designer and software developer. I’m sure he’ll tell me what I’m doing wrong, why I’m dumb, and why I have no idea what I’m doing.

I expect once the basic framework gets set up, I’ll be smart enough to crank out new animations and features relatively quickly!

We have the design for the newer, better prototype mostly finished. This one has 50% more LEDs, and the rings are a bit bigger. I’ll be excited when we get to order some!

What’s up for the next month?

This is a fantastic question, but I’m not certain I have a good answer. By next week, I should be much better prepared for FPV adventures and shenanigans, but the weather is going to be getting hot. Am I going to be able to get out riding electric unicycles and flying drones as much as I’d like?

I’m at the point where I’m going to need to cut another Falcon prototype frame. I’ve made a lot of minor improvements since cutting the last one, and I have a few things I want to change. Cutting carbon fiber on the CNC is messy, boring work that’s made less enjoyable when the Texas summer heat makes the garage even warmer. I hope I can get the next frame cut quickly!

With luck, there will be some real OoberLights progress soon. It is almost time to get one of these suckers mounted inside my case, and I’ll be excited to show off some useful notifications and progress bars.

Did I leave anything out? Is there something I should be working on during the next month that I’m forgetting about? Did I manage to get this published before June officially ended? Let me know in the comments, or stop by the Butter, What?! Discord server to chat with me about it!