Saying Goodbye to the X-Carve

I’ve been spending too much time messing with the X-Carve and not enough time in the shop. Here’s my honest review of the machine and my thoughts on who it’s really meant for.

I’d like to thank Inventables for being an OUTSTANDING company from start to finish. The two people I worked with were understanding and accommodating.

Mike Makes a Luxo Style Desk Lamp (FINISHED)

Well it’s finished! I made a balanced arm desk lamp completely out of wood (except for the salvaged brass shade). It took WAY too long, but I’m very pleased with the results.

I wanted to make it out of mahogany but in a last ditch effort to finish, I used cheap plywood instead. With stain and lacquer it still looks classy!

Download the Sketchup/SVG Files

What If It Fails?

Wow…thank you so much for supporting our plan to travel the country full time in an RV. When we posted last week’s video we were hoping 5-10 people would offer to make videos with us. We were way off!

There were only a handful of “negative” comments and most expressed genuine concern. We wanted to address those concerns in this video.

Mike Makes a Luxo Style Desk Lamp (TEASER)

Ever since receiving my X-Carve, a “Luxo Style” desk lamp has been on the top of my priority list. Unfortunately, every time I tried to design it, I would get frustrated. Last weekend I finally took the time to learn Google Sketchup using Jay Bate’s tutorials.

Jay’s Tutorials –

I made a prototype of my lamp, and I’m very happy with the results. I want to make sure I take my time building the real thing, so here is a quick teaser of my progress this weekend.


Giving Birth Abroad

Giving birth abroad has been something we’ve been thinking about since backpacking Europe. We discovered the rest of the world is not very accommodating to people with US passports, since we are so strict with immigration here in the States.

We also thought dual citizenship would be an extremely cool/useful/valuable gift we could give our children. After ruling out Europe and Canada, we found Costa Rica.

Our tickets and AirBnb is booked, and appointments are made. This is happening for real!

We’re not the first people to do this:

Should the Government Force People to Save for Retirement?

The United Kingdom is phasing in a new law that requires business owners to automatically enroll their employees in a retirement plan. Do you think there should be something similar in the United States?

In this video we discuss the pros and cons of auto-enrollment, the longevity of social security, and the psychological barriers of investing in the stock market.

Further Reading:
Why Saving Money is So Hard –
Small Business Stats –
NPR Article –
Bankrate Survey –

Mike Makes a Rolling Truck Bed Slide

Shane needed a better system for organizing the tools in his truck. We decided to build a DIY bed slide for his pickup (Ford Ranger) out of plywood, 2x4s and casters.
So far it’s working great. It’s not nearly as strong as the commercial versions (you could break it if you wanted to) but it’s still holding several hundred pounds of tools without a problem. We could have made it stronger by framing all four sides of the slide out, but Shane didn’t want to loose the space.

Traveling the Most Expensive Country in the World on a Budget

This will be our last video about our trip to Norway. Since we share all of our financials in our monthly newsletter, we wanted to break down the costs of gear and travel in this video.

If you’re thinking about going to Norway, our number one tip is to avoid restaurants. Everything else is actually pretty reasonable. (Note: A lot of that has to do with the current exchange rate being more favorable than in the past.)

Mike’s First Attempt at Photography

I’ve always been jealous of professional photographers.  Not bored housewives with $600 DSLR cameras on auto-mode, but artists who can turn any scene into something worth looking at.

Most of the technical knowledge I’ve gained from making videos directly translates to photography.  Setting up a camera to properly capture light comes naturally now.  What doesn’t come naturally is composing good looking shots into a single frame.

Before leaving for Norway I decided I wanted to hone my photography and editing skills. Landscapes seemed like a good place to start and who could ask for better landscape than fjords, glacial rivers, and sandy beaches all in one trip.

My hope going into the trip was that I would come out with 3 or 4 photos that accurately represented the country. I’m happy to say I think I accomplished that goal.

Photo 1
I think this one is my favorite because it came out looking so natural. Some of my other pictures look more “processed.” It’s interesting, though, since the sun beam and rain drops in this one were enhanced dramatically (see original).

Photo 2
This is a ship wreck at low tide in Tromso. Editing this image showed me how versatile shooting in RAW can be. The original was really underexposed to capture the detail of the sky and mountains in the background, but I was able to brighten up the ship without any problems. This turned out a little too sharp in my opinion. I need to go back in and fix it at some point.

Photo 3
This one is definitely the most print worthy. As we came around a bend in the road this mountain side village revealed itself. The road was a series switchbacks with no real place to pull off so I quickly put on our blinker, jumped out of the car, snapped this picture and kept driving. The original looked amazing by itself, I just adjusted the colors and added a few highlights.

Photo 4
This photo was taken from the window of the car. We were exploring the Lofoten Islands and saw this barn sitting on what looks like a tropical beach.  We’re actually above the Arctic Circle. (Original)

Photo 5
northernlightsWe’ll remember two things from our trip to Norway forever- The glacier hike and the northern lights. I increased the exposure and adjusted the white balance to more accurately reflect the colors we saw. In the original, the lights were greener than in real life. They were actually more of a teal-ish color like in the edited photo.

I hope you enjoyed! I learned a lot in this process about taking and editing photographs. By the end of my editing session I had a much better understanding about RAW files, dodging and burning, and finding interesting subject matter.