Bay View Gallery Night


It seems like just four months since the last Bay View Gallery Night… oh wait, it was!

We’ll once again have a group show, this time titled: More Awesome Things From the Makerspace, which is our way of saying “come check out all the crazy things we do!”

It’s all happening Friday, September 27th, 2013 from 5pm to 10pm. And as always, we’ll have some sort of magical surprise to knock your socks off!

(Or who knows, maybe it’ll be something that gently removes your socks and then carefully places them into the nearest laundry basket…)

Molding & Casting a Prop Bracer

The mold and final cast part.

The mold and final cast part.

As someone who has gone to GenCon quite a few years and knows several of the GMs of major events, I’ve started getting asked to make props…  This year I have decided to expand my experiences in molding and casting in order to make one of the props.  The prop requested was a “Bracer that looks like it is made of Amber – part of the shell of an insect”.  Thankfully I was afforded quite a bit of creative leeway beyond that.


In the past I have used Smooth-on products, but one of the members of the Makerspace mentioned they were a distributor for Alumilite, so I thought I would give them a try.  This was my first experience with most of the Alumilite products.


I ordered the following supplies:

UMR 12 oz.

Alumilite Dye 1 oz. Red

Alumilite Dye 1 oz. Yellow

Mold Putty – 15 2 lb. Lt. Blue

Amazing Clear Cast 2 gal. Kit Clear

Synthetic Clay


Other items I used:

PVC Pipe form

A form made out of a 3″ PVC pipe shaped to look like a human arm.

3” Diameter PVC Pipe – Approximately 18” long

3” Diameter Hose Clamp

Plaster Bandages


Disposable Mixing Containers

Stir Sticks

Steel Wire (to hold the mold together)


Drinking Straw


I wanted to make a “generic” bracer that would fit either arm, not a right or left arm bracer, so I didn’t want to do a life cast of my arm first – it would be too specific.  Instead I picked up a piece of 3” pvc pipe, cut a section out of most of it (leaving a part connected) and then used a hose clamp to tighten the open end down.  It turned into a really good stand-in for a human arm.  The shape is close enough that it is recognizable, but is not left or right arm specific.  (Note that the screws in the picture were added at a later stage)


Once I had the basic form for the arm, I used the synthetic clay to create the shape of the bracer.  I was going for an organic look, so I wanted curves and no sharp edges.  The biggest challenge I had was trying to smooth out the sculpt.  I still need to figure out the right technique.  Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of the sculpted bracer.


The form and original covered with mold putty.

The form and original covered with mold putty.

Once I had the sculpture complete, I added some screws around the edges as alignment points.  I was careful to make sure the heads were close to the PVC so they would not get stuck in the molding material.  Then I got to try my first new material – the Mold Putty.  I really liked the idea of it – take two parts, hand-mix, then just push it onto the original.  It essentially worked exactly that way.  I thought the mixed consistency was almost perfect for my application.  Unfortunately, the biggest difficulty is being sure not to trap air in it – particularly when placing a second mixed batch next to an already placed batch.  I ended up with some imperfections in the final mold because of this.  Would I use it again?  Yes, but I think I may also try other approaches – either a box and pourable rubber, or brush-on rubber.


The mold with half of the mother mold present.

The mold with half of the mother mold present.

Given the way I wanted to cast the bracer – standing vertically – I wanted to make sure that I was able to hold the rubber mold to the arm form well.  So, using the plaster bandages, I made a two-part “mother mold” for the rubber mold.  First, I coated everything with Vaseline as a release agent, then I covered half of the arm piece with plaster bandaging, making sure the edges were particularly strong, and that the top edge, where I would be creating the second half of the mold, was also quite smooth.  After the first half of the mother mold cured, I then coated the edge of the plaster with Vaseline to make sure the other half would not stick to the first half.  Once I was done placing the Vaseline, I then coated the other half with plaster bandages.


Once all of the plaster dried, I used a sharpie and drew lines across the edges of the plaster.  These lines are so that I could realign them easily after I took the mold apart to remove the original sculpt.


After I removed the original sculpt, I realized I forgot something major…  A way to get the resin into the mold.  Oops!  After a bit of thought, I decided the easiest way to get the resin in would be to drill some holes through the PVC pipe and pour it in that way.  Ideally, I would have designed pour holes and vent holes into the original design of the sculpt.  Something to remember for the next one!  In order to try to control the fluid a bit better, I used straws to extend the holes out.  Bendy straws would have been good – I’m not sure how effective straight straws were.


Using the volume of clay from the original sculpt, I did a rough guess at how much resin would be needed to fill the mold (~12oz).  I measured out 6oz of each of the two parts, added one drop of red and six drops of yellow to one of them, then mixed it.  I used a syringe to suck up the mixed resin and transfer it into the mold.  It worked quite well, although it was a bit disconcerting because of the number of bubbles that were exposed during the suction process.  Thankfully, as soon as the resin reached normal pressure the bubbles disappeared.


The raw bracer prop as removed from the mold.

The raw bracer prop as removed from the mold.

The resin takes 24 hours to cure.  24 hours wondering if it turned out.


And after that full day of waiting, I de-molded it.  Quite the pleasant surprise!  I think it may have slightly too much red, so I’ll have to correct that for my next iteration.  I’m still debating about sanding and buffing it in order to get it to be more glass-like.

Inexpensive Ceramic Shell: Aluminum Casting with Drywall Joint Compound

We’ve been aluminum casting at the Milwaukee Makerspace since November, and I have cast several things since then.  For simplicity, we started by using a lost foam casting method, wherein the form to be cast is fabricated in Owens Corning Foamular 150 (Styrofoam), and is then tightly packed in a reusable, oil bonded sand called petrobond.  The molten aluminum is poured directly on the styrofoam, vaporizing it.  Because the mold is made of sand, the surface texture on the cast aluminum part has the “resolution” of the grain size of the sand.

Ceramic shell is another technique often used in art casting.  The positive of the form to be cast in metal is first created in wax, which is then dipped repeatedly in a silica slurry, that slowly builds up to the desired ½” thickness.  The surface detail reproducible is much smaller/better, as the silica has a much finer “grain size.”  The piece is then put in a kiln to burn out the wax and harden the silica, thereby forming an empty mold.  Typically the mold is cooled, inspected for leaks, patched, and then is buried in regular sand.  Note that to avoid fracturing the mold, it must be heated before pouring.  With all these steps, this process is relatively time consuming and is also somewhat expensive.

Recently, I read a blog post about a quick and low cost ceramic shell alternative that substitutes one or two coats of watered down “Hamiltons White Line Drywall Texture mix” for the tedious ceramic shell process outlined above.  While I couldn’t find that exact product, 4.5 gallon buckets of Sheetrock brand lightweight drywall joint compound (DJC) are omnipresent.  Note that some bags of quick setting drywall joint compound are actually just plaster, and cannot be substituted. I first assembled all the parts needed to make a quick test of the process.  I decided to make some aluminum packing peanuts:


I hot glued the pyramid shaped sprues to the round cup and to the peanuts themselves:


I removed half of the 43 Lbs of DJC from the bucket, and poured in 10 lbs of water, taking care to mix it thoroughly with a spiral paint mixer connected to a drill.  Then, I just dipped the whole styrofoam assembly into the bucket, let it dry overnight, and dipped it in a second time.  Immediately after the first dip, I took care to brush the surface of any especially undercut areas, to prevent air bubbles from sticking to the surface.  In the future, I may consider pulling a vacuum on the bucket of DJC to de-gas it.  This may help prevent the formation of air bubbles on the surface of the styrofoam parts.  In addition, I could have first dipped the assembly in surfactant. After two dips, the 1/8” thick shell on the assembly looked like this:


It was a week before the next aluminum pour at the Makerspace, during which time I poured a half ounce of acetone into the mold to dissolve the polystyrene packing peanuts and styrofoam, producing an empty mold.  This step is only necessary when casting packing peanuts, as their polystyrene tends to rapidly expand out of the mold and catch fire, while the pink styrofoam (also polystyrene) is made for homes, and so is much better behaved.  I buried the now-empty DJC mold in ordinary sand, and Matt W fired up the Bret’s furnace, melted a #16 crucible of aluminum, and poured it (Thanks guys!).  After fifteen minutes, I pulled the mold out of the sand, and found the DJC was a little darker.  The act of pulling the mold out of the sand an leaving it to cool over night left it somewhat cracked:


The DJC crumbled off so easily that I didn’t even need a brush.  Also, I noticed that there is more yellowish surface tarnish on pieces left in the DJC to fully cool.  I recommend removing the DJC immediately after the aluminum solidifies.


After making a few more, I’m almost ready to safely pack valuables, such as my “Marquis, by Waterford” crystal stemware:


Finally, check out the phenomenal surface detail that this process can reproduce.  For scale, this peanut is 1.5” long.  The surface texture on the front face is about ~0.002”!


Thanks to Jason G for this last photo.  Also, a big thanks to Dave from for letting me know that one or two dips will do it!

Bay View Gallery Night

Bay View Gallery Night

Summer is just around the corner, and that means it’s time for the first Bay View Gallery Night of the year, and now that Milwaukee Makerspace is located in the heart of Bay View, we just had to get in on the action, so we’re inviting you to join us in what we sometimes refer to as “16,000 sq feet of Art”.

And hey, it’s not all art, as we do a zillion things at Milwaukee Makerspace, as long as it involves being creative and making things, we do it. We’ll have plenty to see and experience, including our group show titled: Awesome Things From the Makerspace.

If that’s not enough to convince you, we’ll also be hosting a show from our friends at the Bay View Arts Guild, so yeah, even more art!

It’s all happening Friday, May 31st, 2013 from 5pm to 10pm. And as always, we’ll have some sort of magical surprise to knock your socks off!

(Note: If you’re not wearing socks, we can’t be responsible for what might happen to your feet. You’ve been warned!)

Staying Stocked Up

The idea was simple: make something to help keep track of our supplies so we know when we’re running low on the essentials.  After weeks of kicking the idea around and various rough doodles, this project finally took shape.  Two days after the first cut on the laser cutter, it was complete.

Made from multiple layers of acrylic, cardboard, and wood, the “Milwaukee Makerspace Consumables Super Analog Status Board” is a clipboard-sized device with nine sliders installed in enclosed slots.  Sliding the tabs right displays more green to indicate “full” or “lots” and sliding left reveals the red acrylic below to indicate “empty” or “low.”  The user can carry the board around the Space with them as they check on supplies and when done, a large hole centered at the top allows the board to be hung up and displayed on a wall.

The hardware holding the whole thing together can be loosened and the layers disassembled.  The cardboard insert that the text resides on can be swapped out should we decide to change the list of items we want to keep tabs on.  The supplies being tracked currently include:

  • Toilet Paper
  • Paper Towels
  • Hand Soap
  • Welding Gases
  • Welding Wire
  • Propane
  • Soda
  • Duct Tape
  • Painter’s Tape

A digital version may or may not be planned for future release.

Art Night

Art Night

If you happen to be out and about on Friday, April 19th, 2013 you might want to swing by Milwaukee Makerspace at 2555 S. Lenox St. in Bay View.

While we aren’t officially part of any gallery night events this time around, we’ll be open to the public on Friday from 6pm to 9pm for anyone who wants to stop by and take a tour, or check out some of the art (and art making tools!) we have at our space.

And if you want to see us in full art swing, you’ll only have to wait until the end of May. ;)

Art Jamboree [Time Lapse]

The Jambo at Krambo!

Well we certainly had a good crowd for the Art Jamboree that Art Milwaukee held at the space a few weeks back.

Don’t believe me? Check out the crowd in this time-lapse video we shot during the evening with a GoPro camera mounted in the welding area.

We actually had a lot more going on that you can see in this room. Pretty much every space in the 16,000 square foot building got put to good use showing off something cool.

(Here’s a view of the other large room, the camera angle is not quite as wide, but just as many people.)

The Art Jamboree is Here!

Art Jamboree

When we say “The Art Jamboree is Coming” we really mean The Art Jamboree is Coming! That’s right, Art Milwaukee is bringing the next Art Jamboree to us. Mark your calendars for Friday, March 29th, 2013 when the Art Jamboree will take place at Milwaukee Makerspace.

This one is titled “The Maker” and besides the usual awesomeness that includes the best in Milwaukee art, there will also be raffles, food & drink, and free low-fives(?) We’ll also be adding our own maker-related art to the mix. Expect some some interactive pieces as well as art in mediums you may not be used to. (Sure we like paint, but we also like lasers and molten plastic and beer.)

This event is free and open to the public. (All ages are welcome, but keep an eye on the kids. We have a lot of rotating blades, but we’ll do our best to keep them powered-down during the event.)

Mark your calendars for March 29th, 2013 from 7pm to 11pm. We’ll see you at 2555 S. Lenox Street in beautiful Bay View.

Pssst! Want to see who else is going? Check out the event on Facebook.

A Clockwork…Room Divider

A 6 foot tall, clockwork gear inpired, tri-fold room divider

Hopefully, we can use this as a backdrop for events like the Art Jamboree.

I’ve been toying with the idea of room dividers for a while now. I don’t exactly have use for one, but I think they look neat and it’s basically a blank canvas. Drawing inspiration from my Clockwork Boxes, I decided that a gear motif would best suit the makerspace, thus giving me a new use for the piece: as a backdrop at events we participate in such as Art Jamboree and the various Maker Faires.

A picture of myself, Jason, and Matt, standing around the room divider

There are 3 of us in this photo. Really.

The actual screens were cut out with a large-scale CNC router, while the frame was ripped from 2×4’s, with a dado groove down the center for the screen to slip into. Thanks, Jason H.!!

Assembly went well, although there were a few hiccups.  The drill bit wasn’t long enough, so some minor splitting occurred at a couple of spots. The frame was slightly warped and so needed to be clamped and glued before being screwed together.

After allowing the paint to dry overnight, myself, Matt W., and Jason H. assembled this thing just prior to heading to the Art Jamboree at the Hilton in Milwaukee.

EDIT: I’ve just entered this into the Furniture Contest that Instructables is running. Click the link. Vote. Be thanked. :)