The Turndrawble

The Turndrawble

The Turndrawble is a drawing machine I designed, based loosely on an old vinyl turntable, but instead of playing records, it creates drawings.

The construction was done using stacked layers of wood and acrylic. I wanted to avoid using the typical laser-cut “box” enclosure I usually use. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

The Turndrawble

The Turndrawble is meant to be used to create 12″ circular drawings. One of the knobs controls the platter speed, and the other sweeps the arm in and out. Since it’s a new drawing device, it hasn’t been mastered yet, but we’re working on it!

Here’s a short video showing the turndrawble being operated. I’ll probably have it at some future art events for people to try out and see what they can create with it.

There’s a bunch more info about this thing on the Turndrawble project page on my web site.

QWERTY (and nothing else)

QWERTY Keyboard

I built a QWERTY keyboard that types the letters Q, W, E, R, T and Y, and nothing else. No space, no return, no escape.

It’s a fully-functional USB device, you know, as long as you just want to type words that can be composed with Q, W, E, R, T and Y. (WET, WRY, YET, TRY, there’s a bunch of them!)

I wrote plenty more about this project on my blog, and if you want to read about the history of the QWERTY layout, and its connection to Milwaukee, and why the way we interact with technology is interesting and sometime ridiculous, well… I got that too.

The never-ending 3D printer project

MegaMax has been and continues to be my main project for the last 2+ years.  I am currently working on some upgrades that will make him more Mega and even more Max.  The Y axis is being converted from belt drive to screw drive and the round guide rails are being replaced with linear guides and bearing blocks.  The X-axis will also get converted to linear guide and bearing block and change from 5mm pitch belt to 2 mm pitch belt drive.  I feel confident saying that once these modifications are complete the flaws/errors in prints will be due primarily to the nature of liquid plastic squirting through a nozzle, not positioning system errors.

I recently updated my web site with a sort of historical look at the project, including all the mistakes I’ve made along the way and the often failed attempts at correcting them.  Here is the page that shows how it all started, how it has ended up, and where it is going.

Don’t ask me why I do this-  I have no choice.

MegaMax beginning

From this…






















MegaMax present state...

To this…

littleBits Projects


Back in June we announced some Instructables Build Nights featuring littleBits and the new Arduino at Heart modules. We had a lot of members play with the ‘Bits during the last six weeks, and we’re still waiting for Steve to publish the detailed instructions on his “littleBits-powered Vomit-Inducing Machine”, but for now we’ll have to make do with the littleBits Arduino Annoying Machine that Eric and his son built.

I also got in on the action, with two Instructables that (sort of) go together; littleBits Serial Data and littleBits Serial Controller. All of our projects make use of the Arduino module, which add some great programming functions to the littleBits world.

If you didn’t get a chance to play with the ‘Bits yet, we will have four littleBits Deluxe Kits and a bunch of Arduino modules at the space to experiment with. They should be treated like a LEGO set; build something, then take it apart. Hopefully having some fun and learning something new along the way.

(Big Thanks to Instructables and littleBits for providing the kits to us!)

Instructables / littleBits Build Night

Have you heard of littleBits? It’s an open source library of electronic modules that snap together with tiny magnets for prototyping, learning, and fun. If you’re the kind of maker who tends to avoid the Electronics Lab, littleBits might be just what you need to start experimenting with circuits.

We’ll be hosting a number of littleBits Build Nights in June, sponsored by our friends at Instructables, who have provided us with a bunch of littleBits Deluxe Kits, as well as a number of their new Arduino at Heart modules, which let you add an Arduino brain to your littleBits creations.

If you come up with something cool, we’ll help you post a step-by-step Instructable for it, so others can enjoy your creation. If you need some inspiration, check out some of these littleBits projects.

These events will be free, just bring yourself (and your ideas!) to 2555 S. Lenox St. in Bay View and make something cool with littleBits.

SnakeBite Extruder Works!

I repaired the Budaschnozzle hot-end over the weekend and bolted the SnakeBite extruder to it and then to MegaMax and tested it last night.  There’s plenty of tuning to do, but the first print looks promising:


Start of SnakeBite’s first print


More of SnakeBite’s first print


Not too pretty but it shows promise.

Not too pretty but it shows promise.

Easy RTC Time Set

RTC Time set

I made a few RTC / LCD clocks and disliked setting the time using an Epoch converter so I found a solution that uses 2 buttons to advance the Hours and Minutes.  I substituted toggle switches for the buttons because I didn’t want to have to hold down the button while the Minutes were advancing, thus enabling me to move on to determining how long it is until Spring!.

RTC Timer



I first came across BrownDogGadgets on Etsy back in 2011, and was excited to see a kit-maker in Milwaukee. Somehow I never managed to connect with the man behind BrownDogGadgets until recently when we somehow became friends on Facebook, and I then realized that Joshua was the driving force behind BrownDogGadgets.

BrownDogGadgets makes a variety of fun electronics kits, many of which center around solar energy, and many of which fit in empty Altoid tins. (There’s also some Arduino-compatible kits which look pretty interesting.)

We’re glad to have Joshua as a new member of Milwaukee Makerspace and look forward to having someone with kit-making skills in the group.

Check out for some awesome kit fun!

Halloween Skull Project

I want to open my first blog post with a statement that continues to impress me: Milwaukee Makerspace is a wonderful place! I mostly show up for the free meetings.  MMS provides an excellent environment to be social, to learn (happens every time I go!), to teach (when I can!), and to get the creative juices flowing.

I had recently started working with Arduino (after a failed run at Microchip’s PIC series of microcontrollers), and was making progress quickly.  I learned how to read infrared remote control codes, how to use an infrared motion sensor, and how to control servos. What I did not have, was a sense of direction as to where to go with all of this!

After listening to the Bay View Neighborhood Associate pitch their idea of MMS helping with the Pumpkin Pavilion, and listening to Royce Pipkins describe his idea of animatronic pumpkins singing along to a song, I was struck with my own idea: an animatronic skull.

Thus, it was born! <- Link to the video

I’ll post more details in a following post about how I built this guy. :)

Many thanks to Royce, Tom G., and Ed C. for their help on this project!

IBC Tote Aquaponics

About 3 months ago, in caffeine fueled bravado, two of my friends and I decided to try to build an aquaponics farm in Botswana, a country in Southern Africa. After a lot of reading, field trips to a few impressive facilities, and a trip to Africa, where we secured a partnership with a local institution, we wisely decided to build a system locally first.

Aquaponics is a mixture of hydroponics (soil-less agriculture) and fish aquaculture (hence the cat’s laser-like focus). It is a symbiotic process, where the fish’s organic waste fertilizes the plants, and in return are supplied with filtered water. The only system input is fish food.

The two (2) black plastic boxes pictured above used to be one (1) 330 gallon IBC tote, which are usually used to store and transport fluid and other bulk materials. We cut the container about cut about two-thirds of the way up. The larger bottom tank holds 40 yellow perch for now – it can support about 80-90 fish. Water from the fish tank is pumped through the black pipe in 10 minute on/off cycles to the grow bed above. An Arduino housed in the blue box to the right controls the pump and also monitors water temperature. We plan on adding sensors to monitor the water chemistry (pH, nitrates, etc.) in the future.

The grow bed is media based. In other words, we use a mixture of rocks and expanded clay (the red stuff) to support the plant’s roots and act as a bio-filter to filter the water and convert fish waste (ammonia and nitrites) into plant food (nitrates).  The filtered water falls back to fish tank through the PVC pipe (there are several small holes under the rock), which introduces oxygen via percolation and completes the mostly closed-looped cycle. A set of six (6) full spectrum T5 lamps provide the artificial light. The first crop of tomatoes, radishes, pepper, lettuce, and some wicked cucumbers is sprouting in the plastic containers and should be planted within the media within a day or two. We are expecting the first harvest in 4-6 months.

So now that we are seasoned farmers, we have launched a campaign to build a larger, floating-raft system in Botswana at a local institute of agriculture. We are currently in the fund raising phase on indiegogo. If everything falls into place, we will start construction in late summer (winter over there) of next year.

Pictured below is the reason we are pursuing this project. It hasn’t rained there since 2009. Combine that with the poor soil and the country has to import almost 100% of its vegetables and most fruits. We are hoping that water and energy efficient aquaponics based farming that produces hormone and chemical fertilizer free fish and plants is the answer.