Bulding the Seneca Freedom Toaster
Author: Andrew Smith
This is an account, illustrated with photos, of us (Andrew Smith,
Tiago Moreira, John Selmys and Kubilay Dagdelen) building the toaster. I'll try to keep
it up to date as well as time
Getting the cabinet
On the 13th of December 2006 me, John Selmys and Tiago Moreira got
together at the school to start the real work. Our task was to move the
cabinet we were given by the School of Computer Studies into the Linux
Club and make it smaller.
The cabinet was being used to hold running servers (that's what it was
made for in the first place) so we had to:
This is the one we want to use, notice it's actually two parts (left
and right), we later took it apart. Getting it out of the room was
quite a challenge, it barely fit through the door.
- shut the servers down and take them out of the cabinet
- empty another cabinet of the same size (that wouldn't suit our
- put the servers into the new cabinet and get them running, this
turned out to be problematic because i think the hard drive in the main
server died while were moving it
- move all the junk from the old cabinet into the Linux Club room
(and I was so happy after I cleaned it up a couple of months
After getting it through another door (into the CS offices area) we
took the cabinet apart (removed half of it and closed the hole in the
good half with the wall from the useless half. The last picture is of
John standing inside the fully assembled future Toaster as we struggle
to get it into the Linux Club room. Tiago is stuck inside until we
figure out how to get it in without taking the doors off.
Plugging the holes
11 January 2007: first week back to school. We are trying to fix some
of the imperfections of the server cabinet. There are a lot of them,
but one step at a time. See the two black rectangles on the sides in
the pictures above? Those are plastic handles, but for our purpose they
are nothing more than holes. Today we're trying to fix them using
Tiago's tools and expertise.
We are going to use:
You can't really tell what that is in the pictures below, but trust me
- it's plain old empty space. First thing we do is draw lines around
the patch so that when we drill we know whether it moved and we can
drilling if it did:
- a drill
- a drill bit made for cutting through metal (we haven't tried to
use a wood bit, but it may have worked)
- patches made of steel tape cut to size (simply thin metal, much
- a rivet gun
Nothing special about the drilling except we drilled through the patch
and the cabinet wall at the same time (holding the patch in place with
a piece of wood). We decided to put the patch on the inside because
overall it seemed least problematical, but I think on the outside would
work ok too. This is what the a rivet and the rivet gun look like (an
This is me trying hard not to mess it up and the job done (front and
back). Actually the rivet gun is a very simple tool but I have never
used one and I care a lot about this project :)
We may need to find something to cover that patch up so the artwork
doesn't sink in, but this is already much better.
Getting rid of the door
15 January 2006: Last time we were talking about how we're going to
wrap the artwork around all the mess of the front of the cabinet. To
illustrate here are pictures of all the stuff that will be in the way
(the massive hinges and handle, the big crack between the door and the
cabinet and the glass that's sunk into the door it's attached to):
Considering that we have to stick one thin plastic sheet of
artwork right on top of all that, it's just about impossible. But
luckily this idea came to us: get rid of the door and all the problems
that came with it dissapear:
I found plywood of the proper quality and depth at Rona, cost us 50$
(CAD) with tax. The guy cut it wrong the first time but fixed it (he
made it 1/16 wider than needed the first time).
The size of the plywood is what I asked for (what I measured) but it
turns out the hole isn't exactly rectangular - it's a tiny bit wider in
the middle and narrower on the top and bottom. We'll probably sand off
a bit of the plywood on wednesday when we try to mount this.
Fitting the new wood panel
Turns out the wood was cut exactly to the right size but not quite
straight, it was wider and taller in a corner. All we had to do is use
a file to shave off about 1mm and then it fit:
To make sure it stays there we decided to drill holes and put screws
through. The advantage of this is that we can use washers between the
wood and the cabinet to make sure the wood doesn't sink in (as it does
in the picture). Drilled through the wood and the metal at once. View
from front and back:
Shelf for DVD drive
The most practical way we could think of to fix the burner in place was
to lay it on a shelf. This way it won't move no matter what. The white
metal horisontal bars you can see in some pictures above can be moved
up and down so all we have to do is make a shelf that would be very
close to the front panel. We expect to use this shelf for the computer
also when we get there.
Cutting this was quite fun, we had to find a place in the school where
the noise wouldn't bother anyone. The best we could come up with was
near the entrance on the first floor, luckily the cutting only took a
few minutes and no security guard walked by :)
This is Tiago drawing the corners, me and him being proud of our work
and the shelf in place (not screwed in yet):
Mounting the DVD drive
Unfortunately we forgot the camera but we made some pictures later. We
decided the best way to mount the drive is with two brackets. We
manufactured these on the spot using the same steel tape. Not very
straight but they do hold it.
The white-faced drive in the pictures above isn't the one we are
planning to use but they are all the same size (so they can all fit in
clone cases) so we didn't worry about it.
Brackets for the monitor
We didn't want to do the same sloppy job on the monitor as we did on
the drive so Tiago made the measurements for the screen and his father
made us proper brackets. They turned out quite nice:
Oh, looks like these are the first pictures of the monitor. It's an ELO
1537l. Very nice piece of equipment but somebody (possibly the
distributor) was cheap and didn't send us enough screws. Whatever.
Now to screw the brackets into the cabinet. First we had to measure
where to make the holes. Not trusting a tape we used a solid metal line
to measure from the top of the cabinet to the top of the first bracket.
No rocket science there. We made holes in the monitor's brackets, then
put the bracket in place and marked where the holes in the cabinet
should be, then made the holes in the cabinet. Turned out well. Lucky I
found a new drill bit for metal, it cuts through as if it were wood.
Very good to have!
Before making the holes for the bottom bracket we attached both
brackets to the screen and the top one to the cabinet. Then marked the
holes and drilled them out. The pictures were made after it was all
finished so don't be confused :)
All the screws went in perfectly. I guess our worrying too much payed
off this time:
The brackets had to be raised a little (I was lucky to have wood just
think enough) because the thing they were mounted on plus the width of
the screen wasn't enough to reach all the way to the front:
Front panel holes for screen and burner
Very carefully we measured the distance from the top of the cabinet to
both sides of the top of the monitor. Also for the top and the bottom
of every side of the monitor to the edges of the cabinet. Using the
trusted metal rules, a seneca pencil and a sharpie marker we drew the
lines for the monitor's hole as precicesly as possible manually:
To make a rough hole, but as precise as possible with a jigsaw these
are the steps we followed:
The same for the burner's hole, except the measurements were easier (we
pressed the drive from the back onto the wood and drew lines around it).
- Using a 1/4 inch spade bit (the only one we had, a bigger one
would be better) we made holes on the inside of the rectangle, so that
the edge of the hole would almost touch the line on the inside. Four
holes, one in the middle of each edge of the rectangle.
- Using a jigsaw cut starting from the hole all the way to the
edge. Gigsaw has to be working at full speed but we moved it very
slowly so we don't mess it up. Two cuts per side, 8 cuts overall.
- If we didn't forget to bring a file, we would smooth out the
Notice that the right side (as you see it) of the monitor's hole is not
straight. That's because I cut over the line in one direction and
inside the line in the other direction. We will hopefully be able to
fix this with a file later.
Getting ready for painting
Vienna Ly (the artist) had an excellent idea: since most of the surface
will be plain colour (top half red bottom half black) why not paint the
background and only print the fancy stuff? This, by the way, is a
rasterised version of her work (I will probably put the Illustrator
files on the toaster website eventually):
The first step is to make the wood paintable with spray paint. We used
oil-based Varathane from Home Depot, cost about 15$. This is Tiago
applying the second coating:
The second coat would never dry. We waited 3 days and after that I just
got tired and steel wooled the whole thing. Turns out after that it
wasn't sticky any more. I can't explain it.
To make the sides as smooth as we possibly could we covered the hole
covers (see 'Plugging the holes') with putty. This is Kubilay and John
working on it and the finished result:
We had to choose really nice spray paint. Nice in this case was shiny
colours, and pure red (Seneca colours). I bought 2 cans of each at
first, then realised that wasn't enough and bought two more, then two
more. All in all 4 cans black and 4 cans red of Krylon from Canadian
Tire. I don't remember what it was called. The glossy kind. Costs about
4.50$ per can.
We measured where the line would go, drew it with a pencil (which by
the way you can still see through the red paint), I took a deep breath
and got going.
Now it is time for a bunch of warnings :)
And now it's time for the other side. We put the tape over the red to
make sure we get a straight line. More on this later. All the rest was
covered with newspapers to avoid black spots on the red surface. We
kept covering stuff we cared about with newspaper, even when we put it
way out of the way.
- This paint stinks! After spraying it for a couple of minutes the
smell will go around everywhere. Do this outside if you can, and if you
cannot get a fan to blow out the door lest you get high on the fumes.
- It flies all over the place! See we only have a bit of paper on
the floor. Well now every horisontal surface in that room has red dust
on it. It should be cleanable (it was dry when it landed there) but
would have probably been easier to cover everything with newspaper.
- Hold the can far from the surface. We did a test first and it
turned out really bad because i held the can 10-15 cm away and you
could see the traces, very nasty. Holding it far takes longer but it
looks really good afterwords.
- Do it all at once. We forgot to paint the sides of the panels
(you can't see them in these pictures) and had to take them off and
repaint just the sides. Remember white is quite a bit of contrast from
whatever colour you're using.
The black covers the red no problem.
If all you want to do is move the surface around, this paint dries
quickly enough. The tape cannot be stuck over it until at least 2 hours
passed, otherwise it leaves an impression in the wet paint. Anyway, we
just had to put it together to see what it looks like:
A day later notice there is a lot more paper around, and every painted
bit of the toaster is covered. Notice also the white side of the panel
I mentioned earlier, we didn't paint it:
See how hard John worked, his hands are damaged:
Turns out that on the front and back when we took the tape off it came
off together with the paint. We still don't know why. It worked
perfectly on the sides. Possibly because we didn't wait long enough for
it to dry. This is the result, with me being very upset:
We fixed this later but it was never quite as good as when it's done
right the first time.
Frame for screen and burner
There would be a not-so-pretty crack between the screen and the wood.
Also between the burner and the wood. To cover this we bought a long
(~2.5m) strip of shiny metal about 2cm wide. We cut this and painted it
to make frames. Didn't make it very accurate but at this point I didn't
care. Still, they turned out amost right:
Something wasn't straight and we didn't want to get glue over the
monitor so we covered it with a bit of cardboard. Then we used epoxy
glue to stick the frame to the wood panel:
I think we got glue on the scren even with the cardboard there, but no
matter. I figure if we have to disassemble it we'll have bigger
Oh, I don't think I mentioned the screen is held in place with brackets
on its sides that are screwed into the back of the front panel. The two
big metal brackets we made before ended up not being used in the finl
thing though they were very useful in the process. you can kind of see
the bracket here:
We decided to put the computer on a shelf under the burner and the
spare monitor on the same shelf as the burner. The spare monitor would
be used for maintenance. The video card has two outputs so it wasn't a
problem. But we had to cut a hole for the IDE and power cable after the
burner was fixed in place permanently, that was a bit of a challenge.
Tiago did it:
Notice we removed the front of the case, it wouldn't let the machine
lay there straight. Also we made two holes in the white metal shelf and
screwed the computer into there so it wouldn't move.
Vienna's work had to be printed on big stickers. This cost us 220$ for
something of reasonably good quality. Here are the pieces:
Following the printer's advice we sprayed the sticky side of the
stickers and the surface they go on with ArmorAll, this way it's
actually possible to smooth it after putting it on:
We would leave it for a few minutes, then spray it again from the
outside and peel the protective paper off:
Then we use that plastic tool to smooth it out (move the bubbles off
the side) and wipe it clean with paper towels. Be picky with every
How many programmers does it take to put a sticker on?
So here we go, this is what it looks like. A full semester of great
teamwork and cooperation from four departments at Seneca College:
The software isn't quite finished yet but here's the toaster making its
And now it's time for exams. What a bother!
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