88nine Lazzored!

Radio Milwaukee Lazzored!

I used the laser cutter to make a Raspberry Pi case, and rather than leave the front of it all boring, I added an 88nine Radio Milwaukee logo to it. (Since I had a project that involves a Raspberry Pi and 88nine, it seemed appropriate.)

Radio Milwaukee Logo

I started with the original 88nine logo, which is brown and orange. I couldn’t find a nice hires version, but a quick web search turned up something that would work…

Radio Milwaukee Logo

To start with, I converted the logo to black and white, since color wasn’t going to matter to the laser cutter…

Radio Milwaukee Logo

I then separated the top bars (which are orange in the original logo) and dithered them to create a visual separation from the bottom part of the logo that was brown in the original.

Radio Milwaukee Logo

Here’s a close-up of the dithering pattern. It’s extremely simple, but it worked. I’ve done a lot of work with halftones and dithering, and you can get extremely complex, but sometimes the simple things just work.

Radio Milwaukee close-up

Here’s a close-up of the final piece of Baltic Birch plywood with the logo etched in it. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

We leave, we come back!

Leaves

Even though we left Chase Avenue and moved to Lenox Street, we’re still not a fully operational battle maker station… yet.

But here’s the thing, for a lot of us, we never stop making, and if someone needs help on a project, we’re still going to do what we can to help out. So when some friends of mine at Sensorium Gallery ask for help with a laser cutting project, we found a way to deliver.

They were looking for white paper leaves to cover the floor for an event, and had the idea of laser cutting a few reams of paper. I found a maple leaf on OpenClipArt, tweaked it a bit, and sent it to Neille at Sensorium. She sent me back a new file, and I gave that to Brent who has access to a laser cutter he could use while the Makerspace laser cutters were not up and running.

A few emails back and forth, and between the three of us we got the leaves done in time. Sweet! Once we return to “making as usual” it’ll be nice to help people out with their projects without having to chase people down and send a bunch of emails. I hope Bay View is ready for us! :)

Custom Snow Globe

 

Well, I’ve been slaving away on creating a unique X-mas gift for my wife and two-year old daughter, and I think I got it right. They loved it!

I’m talking about a Custom Snow Globe!

A while back, I was working in the driveway on a styrofoam project. Of course, that white stryrofoam dust gets static-charged and STICKS TO EVERYTHING. I also found that the best tool for cutting it was my wife’s kitchen electric carving knife. When I headed inside to take a break and warm up, I was COVERED with styrofoam. My two-year-old girl looked up at me and squeeled “Daddy a Snowman!”.

Indeed I was. I imagined myself inside a snow-globe with styrofoam swirling around me like a snowstorm. But could I actually BUILD a snowglobe that would match my imagination?

I started looking at every snow globe I could find and set to work building one. I looked around and found a glass dome, used for light fixtures. I got two of them, and gave one to my brother-in-law, who is a clay artist, among other things, and commissioned him to make a caricature of me. Since he had one globe, and I had the other, he could make a figure that would fit inside the globe, and I could do the woodworking on the base, and insure that the globe fit that.

I headed to the local cabinet shop and talked to old high-school class-mate Steve about what wood to use for a base. He gave me a maple block, and I grabbed some scrap maple from the bin to practice cuts and routering on. At my Dad’s back-of-the-garage shop, I experimented with routing, until I could get it right, and routed a circle for the base of the glass globe, cut the wood base to length and cut a 45-degree bevel on the top edge, and routed a pocket in the bottom for the electronics.

I wanted to make a “singing” snow-globe, so I bought a singing greeting card at the Hallmark store, and then dissected it for parts. The electronics were then mounted on the bottom of the  wood base, along with a custom switch.

I headed to the Milwaukee Makerspace to use the laser-cutter.

Using the vector graphics program on the laser’s computer, I laid out an inscription for both the top and bottom of the snow globe base. I practiced on a piece of paper, and then when I actually focused the laser properly and had everything else figured out, I wood-burned the maple block, front and back.

I also used a solder station to add the momentary on switch to the greeting card electronics, so that the song would play whenever the globe was picked up to shake up the snow.

Next, was clear-coating the figure and the wood base. I used “Parks Super-Glaze”, a two-part epoxy clear coat used for bars, to completely seal and waterproof both the figure and the base, as well as to permanently attach the figure to the base.

Then, it was a matter to holding the globe upside down, filling it with water, filling the routed circular grove of the base with silicon glue, and flipping the figure and base, upside-down, into the dome of water. Once it was cured, the snow-globe can be flipped right-side-up, gift-wrapped, and put under the tree!

I’m glad to say that the project turned out just great! It was a bit of a stretch to my skill-set, so THANK YOU to the people who gave me a hand with it. Nothing quite like a project that runs the gamut from sculpture to wood-working, electronics, glass, water, laser-engraving, and more! But that’s how we grow… by stretching a little bit more every time!

Merry X-mas

From Ben the Snowman.

Laser Badges!

Laser-cut Name Badges

We saw these nice laser-cut name badges on the Pumping Station: One wiki, and thought that Milwaukee Makerspace should have some as well, and Saturday night’s alright for laser cutting so now there’s about a dozen blank badges for people to make their own badges. (And the one test badge I already make for jason.)

Have I mentioned I love our laser cutter?

Easy Star Trek “Red Shirt” Costume

I always have the best of intentions. When getting invited to a costume party, I plan to put lots of time and effort into it to create an EPIC costume. Time after time, I put it off and come up with something at the last minute.

The great thing about a costume is that you DON’T have to spend lots of money on one. In fact, you can create a very good costume, just from clothing and props you already had.

Recently, a friend had been working on a Star Trek prop, which got me thinking about how simple a Star Fleet uniform would be to make. Not a perfect one full of detail, but something fun, simple, and cheap.

To start, I gathered together a red T-shirt, black pants and shoes. I didn’t have a long-sleeved shirt, so I just layered the red short-sleeved over a black long-sleeved T-shirt.

A Federation insignia or communicator badge is an important element to the costume, but is simple to make. I just went to the web and did an image search. When I found one I liked, I downloaded it, scaled to to about 2.5″ tall in my graphics software, and then printed it onto tag-board with my inkjet printer. I cut out the insignia, and put a piece of tape on back. A safety pin glued to the back would work great as well. From just a few feet away, it doesn’t look like paper at all, it just looks like the logo you expect to see on the uniform.

Of course no Star Fleet Officer on an away mission would be without a phaser. I had several to pick from: a TV remote, an infrared thermometer, or my cordless beard trimmer. Basically any dark plastic item that you can point threateningly can be a phaser. I chose a digital tire pressure gauge as my hand-weapon of choice.

Also handy would be a tri-corder. I DID spend a bit of money on this one – $.99 cents. Since I happened to have a smart phone, I downloaded a tri-corder app. It has lots of blinking lights and sound effects that add considerably to the outfit.

I also wanted to point out that I was NOT a main character. Nope, not Kirk or Picard or any of those guys – just a nameless red shirt that’s guaranteed to get killed by the alien/monster of the week. To do so, I created a “Hi, my name is:” badge from a computer-printable address label and a marker. I tried both “Red Shirt” and “Expendable” as name-tags. At the one costume party I went to, people got the joke and had a good chuckle – and then had an urge to kill me…. (Lion-O quickly took me out with the Sword of Omens.)

So, remember, a costume doesn’t have to cost a fortune in time and money – just recycle some clothes and other items into a simple and clever outfit anyone can appreciate.

-Ben

Lasers + Whisky = Delightful Wedding Gift

One of our members got married yesterday, and I crafted a fine gift for him and his wife at the Makerspace.  The happy couple enjoys whisky, and I thought that providing a tour might be a nice idea.  The tour starts at inexpensive bourbon, moves through wheated whiskies, and on to rye. The tour continues in Scotland with some easy to enjoy Sherry cask finish bottlings, and then moves on to rare, Islay and finally mature bottlings (25 Year old Talisker!).

I found some old mohogany baseboard that had some aging varnish on one side and some old caulking on another.  After cutting two 18″ long sections, a few minutes of belt-sanding had them looking great.  I used a 1 1/4″ Forstner drill bit to bore 0.3″ deep pockets for the bottles to fit in.  I used one of our two laser cutters to etch the name/age/proof of each of the whisky sample on top, plus a congratulatory message on the reverse side.  To bring out the rich orangy-red mahogany color, I wiped on Beeswax / Mineral Oil .  Check it out close up, while imagining the symbolism of things getting better with age!

60 Watts of Lazzor Power!

Laser Training

Last week we got the 60 watt laser cutter “officially” online and working. We even got a bunch of people trained on using it. There’s still an issue with homing, but if you follow the instructions, it works fine.

And by “works fine” I mean it “works great!”

I ended up cutting my Nerdy Derby car last week, and I also did this laser-etched coaster, which is about 3.75″ in diameter and 3mm thick. There was a little bit of scorching at the bottom, but I may be able to sand that off easily. I was still playing with the cutting settings a bit. I may also play with the masking tape idea to prevent scorching the surface when cutting.

Laser Etched and Cut

The artwork for the coaster is a mathematician from a NASA coloring book, and I found it on OpenClipArt.org which is a great source for public domain vector-based artwork.

(Oh, we also ended up connecting the PC that was on the 25 watt laser cutter (which is down for maintenance) because it’s got a newer version of CorelDraw.)

Plate & Print

Plate & Print

Remember my post about making printing plates? I finally got a chance to try it out.

I took a sheet of 3mm Baltic Birch plywood and etched it with the 25 watt laser cutter. My design was about 5 inches wide by 6 1/2 inches tall and took about 90 minutes to complete. I etched it at 100% speed / 60% power. (Shane’s etching chart was quite helpful.)

Once the plate was done I had to head out, so I didn’t get to use the press we have, so I ended up just doing a quick test at home and hand burnishing the print, so it doesn’t exactly look great… but this was just a test. Rolling the ink onto the plate worked well, the etching was deep enough to keep the ink out.

I look forward to the next step in this process, trying this print in the real press and seeing how it turns out. I’m also still learning about the sort of paper I should use. The stuff I have now is “fine” and a bit thin. I did get some advice from jason g. who said “Two words: Rives BFK” and that’s all he had to say about that. :)

Oh, and I almost forgot to reverse my artwork before I etched it! Not good… As for the robot, it’s one I drew last year.