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 allows.

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.


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 stop drilling if it did:


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 amazing tool):


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).

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.

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:

Painting mistakes

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 problems anyway.

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:

The computer

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 little thing:


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 first disk:


And now it's time for exams. What a bother!

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