A phone with a frickin’ laser!

My recent acquisition of a Meade ETX-90 telescope with computer go-to system for locating objects in the sky got me thinking that it would be nice to have a system to locate objects in the sky when you’re looking through binoculars or a telescope that doesn’t have a computer and motors to drive it.  To that end I came up with the idea of mounting a green laser pointer, commonly used by astronomy nutz to point out objects in the sky to noobs, on a cell phone or tablet running a program such as Google SkyMap or Skeye.

sky laser all parts

CAD rendering of the parts

After much thought and a few prototypes I came up with a system that allows a laser to mount on a phone and that assembly to mount on a tripod, a handle, or a telescope.  The tube that holds the laser has adjustment screws to allow the laser to be aligned with the SkyMap on the phone.  It also has to slots that fit over standard gun sight rails.  On one side I have a phone/tablet bracket that has a gunsight rail and slides into the laser tube, and the other side can be used for a rail that mounts on a tripod or a handle.  Extra rails can be mounted on telescope tubes.  I haven’t yet designed a binocular mount, but will soon.



Parts printing on MegaMax

I printed the parts on MegaMax with Octave fluorescent red filament (that’s why the colors vary in the photos- the flash apparently excites the fluorescence in the picture with the handle).   All the parts fit VERY tightly together but I included screw holes for extra security.  The phone/tablet mounts on the bracket using velcro tape.  I think it may be better to print or buy a cheap case to fit the phone than screw it to the phone/tablet bracket.  I’ll be posting the design files to Thingiverse shortly.


Phone and laser mounted on handle


Phone and laser on a tripod



Crafting for the Workplace

There seems to be a phenomenon in the workplace – in all workplaces – when you’ve just finished Doing the Thing you’re supposed to do.  The moment you lean back for one second, sure enough, the Boss walks by and says, “Why aren’t you Doing the Thing?!?”  In honor of this widespread misfortune, my fellow store managers and I developed:

The Barrister Free Mulligan Token



You see, I work at a board game & toy store.  In the world of collectible card games, taking a mulligan essentially means putting back the hand you were dealt and drawing a new one.  We figured our staff could use a second chance if they were ever caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.  With plenty of help from Shane, I was able to laser-cut a bunch of wooden tokens.

Standing up to your boss can be difficult.  But there are times when it’s appropriate, and now each employee is well-armed against fickle fortune.  Shane called our idea “very forward-thinking.”  My favorite part was at last week’s staff meeting, where everyone got do decorate their own personal token:



To expend a token, we simply drop it through the slot in the top of the pencil case, which is bolted to the backplate.  Once you take your Mulligan, the boss owes you a second chance, an apology, and (for good measure) a sandwich.  Expended tokens may be reclaimed by attending a staff meeting.  Who knows how much use they’ll see?  Even as just a symbol, it gave us a way to talk about the elephant in the room.

And play with the glitter glue.




I’ve known since I met my Makerspace Geek husband that he could fix ANYTHING. It didn’t always look pretty but it would work. I’m reminded DAILY just how talented he is. Unfortunately, over the years, being somewhat of a minimalist, I ran out of things to put on his Honey-Do List. I would find myself, at times, racking my brain trying to think of something he could fix or make. Because after completing a task and joyfully erasing it from the fix-it/make-it board, he was happy, contented and fulfilled. Lo and Behold he discovered Makerspace. I should celebrate the day as one would a major holiday. It has transformed my little geek into a big geek. He LOVES Makerspace and I love that he has a place to go where he can share, with other like-minded individuals, all the geeky thoughts spinning in his head. He still shares some of that with me but I know that oftentimes my head kind of goes on blank mode and I find myself just looking at him, trying not to nod off and listen. After his joining and I got over his starting every sentence with something about Makerspace, or his approaching total strangers and handing out a Makerspace card, or striking up conversations with family and friends and droning on for, what seemed like hours, about Makerspace, I surrendered. Why??? Because it makes him darn happy, that’s why. And who doesn’t want to see someone they love being happy??


So now when we’re eating dinner and I see him chomping at the bit because he wants to be at the club, I wish him well on his merry way and sit back to a quiet evening. If I’m awake when he gets home I get to hear all about the goings-on. I admit to crashing, often before he gets home because when he does he’s often so jazzed that I then have trouble falling to sleep .
Thanks, Makerspace, for making a space for him

3D Printable shock mount for PCM-M10 digital recorder

PCM-M10 Shock Mount

PCM-M10 Shock Mount

Several years ago I played with a lot of audio stuff including making binaural recordings of things like cicadas, train rides, and festivals in Japan, and the singing of tree frogs in my back yard when I lived in a forest in Missouri.  Those recordings were done on a MiniDisc recorder because it was the best available audio quality recorder for people on a budget (i.e. cheapskates) like me.   Time and technology wait for no one, and I’ve been getting the itch to do some recording again, so I recently picked up a Sony PCM-M10 recorder.   This little machine records in many different formats up to and including 24 bit/96 ksps (though self-noise really limits the machine to about 15 actual bits).  The audio is recorded onto micro SD cards so unlike the MiniDisc, you get access to the raw digital data without any compression or associated quality degradation.

My previous recordings were done using a DIY binaural microphone that used a roughly matched pair of electret condenser mic capsules mounted on a wire bail that held the capsules inside my ears.  Even though those mic capsules were pretty noisy, the recordings came out pretty good.  When you listen to them with headphones you get a real “you-are-there”, surround-sound experience that can be quite startling.  You can hear those recordings here: http://mark.rehorst.com/Binaural_Recordings/index.html   Soon, I’ll be starting a new binaural mic project to go with the new recorder, this time using much higher quality mic capsules.

In the meantime I was looking for a shock mount to use when making recordings using the built in mics.  The shock mount prevents low frequency noise from handling, bumping the table the recorder sits on, etc., from being coupled to the mics through the body of the recorder.  I did a web search and found only a couple unsatisfactory designs so I did what any maker would do- I made!

One of the flaws in the few designs I saw was that some of the numerous switches and I/O jacks on the recorder would not be accessible when it was bolted to the shock mount.  They also didn’t look very nice.  After a lot of sketching possible designs on a whiteboard and paring the thing down to a minimal implementation, and spending much too much time making a 3D model of the recorder, I came up with a printable 3-finger design that holds the recorder either on a tabletop or a tripod and keeps ALL the switches and I/Os available.  The only thing you can’t do while the recorder is mounted is swap batteries (but with 40 hours record time on a set of two AAs, that shouldn’t be a problem).

I used DesignSpark Mechanical to make the recorder model and design the shock mount.  DesignSpark makes rounding corners of complex 3D objects easy (nearly impossible in Sketchup), but I did run into some of its limitations that I hadn’t previously considered.  One huge limitation is that there is no way to put any form of text into a drawing without some special work-arounds (use Sketchup to make text, then import into DesignSpark).

CAD drawing of shock mount

CAD drawing of shock mount

PCM-M10 on shock mount- CAD

PCM-M10 on shock mount- CAD

This shock mount design is available here:  http://www.thingi



I printed the shock mount on MegaMax using Coex3D Aqua ABS filament.


CNC Mogul Introduction

A few weeks ago Mike Stone of CNCMogul.com visited the Milwaukee Makerspace.

Mike donated one of his machines to the space for testing and feedback as well as to use for the membership. It should also be mentioned that Mike is local and has his shop and distribution in Wales, Wisconsin.

Joe Rodriguez built one machine and I also put one together at our shop at home. So here are some thoughts on the process as well as some pictures. It isn’t a review as these machines haven’t really been put to the test as of yet. Time will tell.

The CNC Mogul is a general purpose 3 axis CNC kit that is relatively easy to put together and can be used for anything that you like. I’ll be using ours for routing and Joe wants to make a CNC plasma cutter with the one in the space. The basic kit is affordable and it uses the Makerslide as it’s building blocks. The stepper motors are run with a rack and pinion setup on aluminum tracks and gearing as well.

The controller is a Chinese Tb6560 Stepper Motor Driver Controller that is controlled via parallel port.

The power supply is a 24V 14.6 AMP 350W Max Power Supply.

The whole kit can be ordered online from 2ft X 3ft up to 4ft X 8ft. Custom dimensions are also available.

So here is the kit before assembly. This is a 3ft x 3ft kit that I will be building and using with a router.

This is the kit right before opening.

This is the kit right before opening.

Inside the kit there are a bunch of baggies with tons of little parts. You can look at the manual here

I’m assembling the quad rail kit. Once I start pulling things out of the box there is an amazing array of parts that explodes out of it. Fortunately each bag and part are well marked.

Everything that you need to build your own CNC controlled machine.

Everything that you need to build your own CNC controlled machine.


Everything is labeled really well.

Everything is labeled really well.

Everything is labeled really well.

Everything is labeled really well.

The kit took approximately 3+ hours to put together. The documentation in the manual is hit or miss. The pictures are extremely good and really help in putting this together. The accompanying text is also great for the first 1/3 of the manual and then you’re left to interpret pictures from there. There are a few questions that came up while building this but fortunately I was able to figure it out.

Little by little the parts are being built.

Little by little the parts are being built.

After the gantry gets built and all of the wires are connected it’s time to test. CNC Mogul recommends using Mach 3 for your machine control. And even has a few pointers on how to setup Mach 3 on their site.

I decided to go with LinuxCNC because it’s open source, I’m comfortable with Linux and it’s low cost (free). I loaded it up on a spare computer and after running through the instructions I was able to control the stepper motors on the Mogul.

What I had difficulty with is that the CNC Mogul uses an “A” axis and “Y” axis slaved together. LinuxCNC can do that but you can NOT test for that in the setting up process. You essentially tell the “A” axis to use the same step and direction pulses as the “Y” axis. I also inverted the “A” axis so they would turn the same direction when they are facing each other.

One of the other difficulties I had was figuring out the leadscrew pitch to enter into LinuxCNC. After some experimentation 1.27 inches per revolution seems about right but some more testing is needed.

Once you’re finished building the whole thing you need to mount it to something. I picked up a Craigslist find and the Mogul fit perfectly.

I generated some G-code from Vectric’s Vcarve Pro Zeroed each axis and started to cut.

I still need to put a waste board down and face it off flat and put some type of work hold-down system in place.

After the unit gets setup in the Makerspace the members will have access to the machine and we’ll see how durable it is.

The CNC Mogul with router mounted and ready to cut.

The CNC Mogul with router mounted and ready to cut.

Total time to build, test, and implement the whole system has been approximately 6 hours. There is still some testing and tweaking to be done as well as putting in a dust collection system.

If there are any questions feel free to ask me either on this post or in person. I’ll be putting this through it’s paces as well.

My 2nd test using the CNC Mogul with 2 types of router bits.

My 2nd test using the CNC Mogul with 2 types of router bits.

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.

3D Printable Thermal Enclosure For 3D Printer

Well, OK, not the whole enclosure, just the parts that hold it together.

MegaMax can print big stuff but he’s had problems with large prints delaminating.  The answer seems to be enclosing the printer to keep the prints warm while printing.  I designed this box and 3D printable parts to hold it together so that I can take the box apart easily to work on MegaMax or move him to other locations and put it back together when I’m done.  The box is 38″ D x 28″ H x 32″ W.

box door open











box door closed














The box is made of 1″ PIR foam with corners suitably notched to accommodate the printed parts.  MegaMax has a 450 Watt heater in the printbed so the box gets super-toasty inside.  I suspect it gets a little too toasty but haven’t made any measurements yet.  I’ll soon be moving the electronics out of the box.  I didn’t do anything to seal the seams in the box because it doesn’t seem to be necessary.  I did tape the edges of some of the foam boards with clear packing tape to prevent damage.

Design and stl files are available at http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:269586

Snakebite Extruder Testing

rev7 extruder with hot-end













One of the biggest problems with FDM 3D printing is hot-end jamming.  There seem to be a lot of causes, most of which are not readily identifiable when a jam occurs.  One thing I have found is that after a hot-end jam I can usually grab the filament and manually push it and get it flowing through the hot-end again, though it is too late to save the failed print.  The most common means of driving the filament into the hot-end is to pinch the filament between a gear and a bearing and have a motor drive the gear, either directly (with 1.75mm filament) or via a gear reduction/torque multiplier arrangement (3mm filament).  When the hot end jams, the large force applied by the gear over the small area of the filament that is pinched between the gear and bearing usually chews a divot in the filament thus destroying the grip.

A couple weeks ago I started designing a 3mm filament extruder for 3D printing.  My hope is that this extruder will provide sufficient force on the filament to prevent hot-end jamming from ruining prints.  My design uses two counter-rotating 6-32 nuts twisting on the filament (like the way your hands twist in opposite directions when you give a “snakebite” to your friend) to drive it into the hot-end.  One is a normal, right-hand threaded nut, the other is left-hand threaded.  When the nuts turn in opposite directions, the torque that would try to twist the filament is cancelled while moving the filament forward and reverse without twisting.

The motor has to turn about 1.26 times to move 1mm of filament so there is a huge torque to axial force conversion.   The gear diameter is about 30mm.  That 1.26 rev moves the gear about 119mm at its perimeter.  That means there is about a 119:1 increase (ignoring losses in the gears, bearings, and nuts) in the force at the filament compared to the force at the gear.  That force is applied over a larger area of the filament than the usual pinch arrangement, so it is less likely (I hope!) to carve the filament and lose grip.  I tried stopping the filament by grabbing it with my fingers and holding as tightly as I could but it didn’t even slow down.

The firmware in the printer has to be tweaked so that it knows exactly how many steps of the motor are required to drive 1mm of filament.  The formula is:

32 rev/ 1 inch  X     1 inch /25.4 mm   X    200 steps/1 rev    X  16 microsteps/1 step   =  4031.496 microsteps/mm

For initial tests I just input 4031.5 using the rotary encoder on the LCD interface to the RAMPS board in MegaMax.

Here are the parts that I used:

Left hand threaded tap:  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006YITGY8

5mm brass tubing:  http://www.ebay.com/itm/360828686174

5x16x5mm (625Z) bearings:  http://www.ebay.com/itm/321062568303

Plastic gears:  http://www.sciplus.com/p/PLASTIC-GEAR-SET-WITH-BUSHINGS_40234

I also used a NEMA-17 motor from a QU-BD extruder.

You can DL the STL files for the printed parts here:  http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:261037

Test printing will start in the next day or so and I will post another video showing success or failure.

Fingers crossed!