Bottle Cap Caches

August 18, 2012 at 12:47 am (Geocaching) (, , )

Not long ago, I came across a type of cache that I’d heard about at GeoWoodstock, but had never seen.  The cache title, which referenced good luck, had me thinking that maybe I was looking for a penny on the ground  The site is a neighborhood park near my house, and the coordinates led me to a slightly rocky area over a drainage ditch, with lots of small gravel rock interspersed with grass.  So, I started looking.  Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, I saw a penny on the ground.  My heart started beating faster. When I picked it up, lo and behold, it had a tiny container attached to the bottom with a flip-top lid. The vial was pressed into the ground so that only the penny was visible, just like when you find one lying on the ground.  I signed the log, and replaced it into the ground, excited to add to my collection.

BottleCapCache

On the way home, I was thinking that I could easily make that, but,  not wanting to use my hard-earned pennies, I decided to use bottle caps.  I had some bottle tops from a few glass Coca-Cola bottles.  I rinsed and dried them then put a couple drops of contact cement in the cap.  I let them dry overnight, then checked them.  They turned out great.  I put a tiny little log in the vial and it is ready for its new hiding place.  The good thing about this type of cache is that it can literally be hidden almost anywhere, from a park to a playground to a parking lot.  I’m working on some ideas for some slightly more challenging caches now.  I’ve heard a lot of interesting ideas, and I know the types of areas we cachers are likely to frequent, so watch out for some upcoming evil caches.

Fee free to suggest some “evil” or otherwise challenging caches for me. What’s the most creative or challenging cache you’ve seen? Let m know in the comments.

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Make Your Own Whizbangs for Geocaching

July 24, 2012 at 12:08 pm (Geocaching, How-to) (, , , )

Making Whizbangs

Making Whizbangs

While we were at GeoWoodstock X for the annual geocaching convention, we saw a lot of really nifty, innovative caches.  One, in particular, is quite easy to make, and costs practically nothing, as it uses your discarded soda pop or sports drink bottles.  I’d seen this type of cache around here before, but always heard it referred to as, “two bottle tops glued together”.  I found out at GeoWoodstock that they actually have a name: whizbangs (sometimes seen as whizzbangs).

After we returned home, I started playing around with making these, and have come up with a pretty decent system. Here’s how to make them:

Start with your drink bottle.  I drink a lot of sports drinks, so there’s no shortage of those bottles. But, they come in various sizes, so whatever you use, just make sure you have two of the same size, because you need two bottles for each whizbang you want to make.  I usually make about a dozen at a time.  It doesn’t take a lot longer to do several than it does to do one.  Start by using a hacksaw or Dremel-type tool to cut the tops off the bottles.  I prefer a Dremel because it’s quicker and easier for me.  Also, I can use a cutting tool to cut the bottle tops, then switch to a sanding disc to tidy the edges a bit.

You need to cut them right below the ‘lip’, where it juts out a bit just below the little plastic ring that remains after you open the top.  You’ll see what I mean in the pictures if it doesn’t make sense.  If the cuts aren’t perfectly straight, don’t worry about it.  You can fix it by using a little sandpaper or your Dremel to sand it later.  Once you have your bottle tops, sand them a bit, if needed, to have the bottoms fairly smooth. It makes it easier to glue them together if they are more smooth. Again, it doesn’t have to be perfect, as the glue will take care of a little bit of it.

Now, you’re ready to glue the tops together to form a single piece.  I generally use Gorilla glue for a couple of reasons:  it expands as it sets, which helps to cover any imperfections (like the bottoms not being completely smooth), and it makes it more impervious to the elements, since no one likes opening a cache and pulling out a wet log. Yuk. It also takes paint nicely if you plan to paint them. However, you can use any just about any kind of glue you want.  I’ve experimented a bit, and use different kinds depending on how my pieces ended up.  If I’m gluing together a couple of really smooth pieces, and I’m not going to paint it, then I might use a clear contact cement. It’s totally up to you.  I’ve noticed that some folks will put a couple of drops of glue on one end of their whizbang, on the bottle threads, so it only opens at one end. This is especially helpful if you’re running a small wire thru one end to anchor it to something.  Having it only unscrew on one end makes it easier to keep it all together.  That’s just personal preference as well, so just do what works for you based on where you plan to hide the cache.

Now, you can clamp the two glued caps together to let the glue set.  Depending on what you use, you might not have to clamp it, but I usually do, more out of habit than anything else.  It just seems that they get a better seal they’re clamped, even for a little while. One of the first ones that I didn’t clamp migrated just a little after I glued it and left it, so that when I returned a couple hours later to check it, I was surprised to find a very offset cache.  Now I just clamp them to keep the halves from wandering until the glue sets.

Once the glue is set, you can congratulate yourself on making your very first whizbang.  Now is the time to paint them, if you so desire.  I usually go with shades of brown, green, or black, or even all three for better camouflage. Sometimes I leave them unpainted, but not often. It just looks more finished to me, but again, that’s just my preference.  That’s one of the nice things about making your own…you can do whatever pleases you.

After the paint has dried, just add a log, and find the perfect place to hide it.  Congratulations!

Feel free to tell me about other homemade caches you’ve seen.  I’ll be sharing some others that I’ve been working on soon. There are step by step photo instructions in the snapshot here for those of you (like me) who do better with visual guides. Enjoy, and get caching.

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Try Clarify for quick “how to” instructions

August 22, 2011 at 4:06 pm (Apple, Applications, How-to, Productivity, shareware) (, , , )

There’s a new kid in town to make life easier when you get emails, texts, and phone calls from friends and family asking, “Hey, can you tell me how to do (task of the day) real quick?”.  It’s an application called Clarify from Blue Mango Software. You might be familiar with them for their terrific ScreenSteps application that’s been around for a few years and is invaluable for those who write technical instructions, software manuals, and the like.

Clarify is like a lighter version of ScreenSteps. In fact, the process is very similar, so anyone who has used ScreenSteps will be able to use it right out of the gate, and those who aren’t accustomed to it will be able to use it in mere minutes. It’s that easy and intuitive.

Blue Mango says they streamlined the application to be more of a screen capture tool and is primarily for “reducing round trip emails”. Rather than having to send multiple emails back and forth to re-explain, or clarify, your instructions, you can easily do it in just one email using this software.

I did a quick “How to create a how-to using Clarify” in about 2 minutes.

The following is what the user interface looks like within the software while you’re creating your document.

CreateHowToThis next screenshot is what the finished product looks like on the Clarify-it.com sharing site, where you will send folks to view the how-to information. It looks very nice and polished. It can also be exported as a pdf file.

FinishedProductThere is a free public beta available now so you can try it out. The price will be $29.99 when the application is released. It’s available here: http://www.bluemangolearning.com/clarify/ .  Give it a go then leave a comment and let me know what you think about it.  What other methods do you use for this type of communication? Email? Skitch? Something else? Let’s hear your ideas below.

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Post to your blog with ScreenSteps

May 3, 2008 at 10:14 am (shareware) (, , , , , , )

With the new beta of ScreenSteps, you can now publish tutorials directly to your WordPress, TypePad, or Moveable Type blog. I’d tried posting to my WP blog awhile back, and suffice it to say that it did not work. Works nicely now, for both WP-hosted and self-hosted blogs (I only tried it out in WP, since that’s where my blog is…the comments from other users seem to indicate this is working well for the other listed blogs as well).

ScreenSteps lets you create tutorials which can be exported into .pdf or HTML format. This is great not only for IT and tech support folks, but for the “regular guys (and gals!)” who regularly receive calls from family and friends asking how to do something.

There are some good (what else?) tutorials to get you started quickly. Check out ScreenSteps here: http://screensteps.com

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