Several months ago I started this blog with the high hopes of writing 365 posts in one year. But before reaching even fifty entries, I was done. Unlike most abandoned blogs that die a slow death due to lack of content, I conciously walked away from this one.
Let's call this a new beginning. There comes a point in your life when you realize that monsters don't exist, we create them. I needed to take a break. I needed to slay a monster or two.
The good news is I didn't stop making the entire time I was away. I'll try and pull some of the better projects and catch you up on what I've been making.
An architectural detail of our house is a
board walk (think dock) that runs trhroughout the first floor.. It runs from the front door to the back while circling around the bathroom, through the kitchen and
under the stairs as it meets back up on itself in the dining room.
The main reason for doing this was to create distinct spaces
for the dining room, bathroom and kitchen, while dealing with some unfortunate
variations in floor height at the same time.
It’s always worked well. And I love the how it makes our
space uniquely functional.
The bit of dock that runs under the stairs serves a second function.
It was constructed as a large hatch that can be lifted (long piano hinge) revealing
the stairs to the shop in the basement.
The floor was installed in the winter a few years ago when
wood is at it most contracted. Several summers ago as it began to expand with
moisture (remember wood always grows wider with humidity not longer), so much
so that the last plank on the hatch was literally pried-off once when closing.
It sat there toothless at LEAST last winter and all last
summer. Yesterday I trimmed about an 1/8th of an inch off one side
of the plank with the table saw and nailed it back in place with the finish
gun. The longest part of the entire job was waiting for the battery on the nail
gun to charge.
I could take more satisfaction in this completed task if
somehow it felt more substantive. Now I’m pretty much left with, “geese what
took so long?”
In my last intro to metal shop class at 3rd Ward I was
introduced to the plasma cutter. In the metal shop I knew as a kid there were
two ways to cut steel. A ginormous cast iron power hacksaw, or an
oxygen/acetylene torch. That was it.
The plasma cutter works on pretty much the same principle as
MIG welding, only without the filler rod. An electrical arc is struck that
essentially melts a continuous hole through the materials as you drag it along
I’m almost dumbfounded by how easy this tool is to use.
You can pretty much turn any freehand doodle into
a cut piece of steel.
I have a couple of more shop passes to finish-up my course
allotment. I’m sure I will find some way to squeeze in a few more passes with
the plasma cutter before it’s all over.
Since just after the holidays our friend Emily was visiting
from Ottawa, and on the twelfth day of Christmas she returned to the frozen
tundra. She was a big collaborator on Burning Man with us last year, and is
looking to play a big role again this year. One of my favorite maker friends it’s
been great having her around for more than a weekend or week on the playa.
There was a lot of discussion of reengineering shade
structures, We like the design we have but it requires a lot of upkeep of guy
ropes throughout the week. Additionally I would prefer some that it has more
architectural shape. We’ve been building the camp over a period of years and
don’t want to scrap it and start over. The design challenge is to include as
much of the existing emt into the new design. Details to come.
Emily was also a big collaborator on costumes last year, she
made the complimentary red riding hood to go with the wolf vest I made to give
to Henri and Suzanne as a set. When she’s in town there is the omnipresent pass
through 38th street to pick-up costume and hat making bits, Garment
supplies stores like these used to litter lower Broadway now they seem to be
confined to a few blocks in the fashion district. None-the-less walking up and
down the upper thirty’s between 7th and 8th Aves. is like
fantasy shopping for the avid maker.
My favorite part of having Emily around though were the
Wow, can that woman cook. From the lovely coco vin on New
Year’s day, to the homemade ravioli with squash and garlic filling. There were
a couple of fantastic soups I recall too, a French onion that was one of the
best I’ve ever tasted, and lentil soup on Saturday night. I think it had so
much bacon in it by the time I was done it might as well be called bacon soup.
She’s promised me a couple of maker posts for the blog. One thing I do want to note. Last time Emily
was here she got us a pasta maker. When she went to use it to make the ravioli
it was the second time it had been used. She had of course used it the first
time when so bought it for oh so many months ago.
Wednesday night was the last of the welding classes I had
been taking at 3rd Ward. In the intro class they had us work on a
student-y like object.
It was either to be an end table or a stool. Two 45 mitered one inch square tube dquares, with whatever we wanted to connect the two squares together. I choose some round tubing I had leftover from one of the Christmas projects.
I put three 18" legs in the piece offset from each other as I
found esthetically pleasing. I hadn’t really expected to like the piece that
much, but with the tubing it sort of grew on me.
I also had a long piece of square 1¾” mahogany left over
from Christmas as well. Today I ripped that in half and biscuit-joined just
over 12” pieces together to form a single square plank. It was a good use of
the material, and I think it’s going to make a handsome piece.
But the best part about Wednesday’s final class was, Tyler
my teacher came by, looked at the welds on the round steel and said “wow, those
look like they were machine welded.” …pride in mastering a new skill.
Every day I get one step closer to the flocking led light
effect I want for a roomed sized installation. Granted it started with step 1,
learn to solder competently, so there’s been a lot of steps in this process.
Over the weekend I assembled this rgb led 4x4x4 cube from
Seed Studios. Assembly took a couple of hours as there are solder points all
over those stick thin pcb’s. Seed’s Rainbowduino board that is an Arduino
compatible controller board runs the cube with a professional multiplexed LED
driver. Essentially an Arduino unit all hopped up for blinky lights.
Since assembling the unit I have been working through
software bugs. When I plug it into the usb port all of the requisite led’s
light up on the board and a single red led begins to blink in the cube. That’s
it. I've read on-line that several people have noted this same state when they got done
assembling and finally juiced it up. They seem to have been able to work
through their issues, so at least I feel like I’m on the right track.
Getting the Arduino IDE to talk to the board is the big
problem. There is no specific device called “rainbowduino”. I tried using the
Uno setting and all of the 328 compatible options (at Kip’s suggestion) to no
There are a couple of hardware problems that COULD still be
wrong. I took a 50/50 gamble on two resistors, wasn't sure which was the 10K. I
matched the colors in the example on-line. I essentially didn’t look them up to double check, but still think I got right. The other thing is there’s a switch that
allows the arduino unit to draw power directly from 3volt power source rather
than the usb, again I think I got that right.
I’ve set it aside for an hour or two, there are plenty less
vexing projects. Although I did promise to have it running by the weekend, so
an hour or two max, and then more poking.