Drink Up!


The sandblaster is a pretty awesome piece of equipment. Combine it with a vinyl cutter and you can easily etch drinking glasses and other things. Here’s our new Milwaukee Makerspace Beer Stein. There’s more details on the making of this on my blog.

(Obviously we never consume alcohol while operating any dangerous equipment. Note that this piece was created only to show the capabilities of the sandblaster. Not for drinking. Nope, no drinking.)


Blast all the sand!!!

Holiday Make-A-Thon 2013

Make-A-Thon 2013
Yes indeed, we’re doing it again. Some call it “Makesgiving” or “Make Friday” but we prefer the “Holiday Make-A-Thon” which is an event where we team up with Bucketworks and invite the public in to MAKE things instead of BUY things for the holidays.

In past years we’ve provided CNC’d ornaments that people have decorated (paint, glitter, googly eyes) and we also had dried gourds to decorate, we did 3D printed cookie cutters (designed by kids) and DIY wrapping paper and we’ve even taught people how to solder.

We’re still working on the list for this year’s activities, but it should be Maker-tastic!

It’s all happening from 12pm to 5pm on Friday, November 29th, 2013. This year we’ll be at Milwaukee Makerspace (2555 S. Lenox St. in Milwaukee) instead of Bucketworks.

(This is a family-friendly event, and it’s free to the public, though we do ask for a donation to help support the event so we can keep doing it every year.)

(Wanna see who’s coming? You can RSVP on the Facebooks.)

Woodblock Prints

Occasionally back in the day,  I would breakout the linoleum blocks and the speedball cutting tools, and carve out a design to make block prints.  My experience in making prints spans from potato carvings to cardboard stencils, linoleum and wood blocks.  As designs became larger, complex, and multi-color, the time it would take to carve the block plates, made finishing a project difficult at best.

Then, the laser cutter…..

Using the adobe suite of products I created two black and white drawings to be translated to wood blocks.

rooster_redPlate rooster_BlackPlate

Unlike traditional transfer/carving methods, I decided to utilize the 60W laser to etch the images into poplar wood vs. carving.  I chose poplar for its hardness and ability not to warp as easy as pine or other softer woods.  60W laser setting was 100 power, 60%speed, 500 PPI

The image below is a 5″x7″ laser cut of the black plate of the rooster image.


Top-Left is the black plate for the left facing rooster.  Bottom-left is the red plate for the left facing, top-right – red plate, bottom right – black plate

image (1)

The following image shows the red left-facing plate printed, and the black plate inked up and ready to be printed

image (2)

The first red/black rooster print, along side the right facing black print.

image (3) image (5)

And of course, if you do one, you have to do many.


Milwaukee MakerFest!

Holy Moly what an event!  We had almost 600 people come through and enjoy all the excitement of interactive activities, demonstrations and workshops!  I gotta say we all had a great time and we have officially made this an annual event.  So you can start getting excited for next year.  Take a look at some pictures from the event:





Working on singing pumpkins

In a recent visit to the makerspace, I was able to assemble a couple of shields targeted at my Singing Pumkins project where an Arduino drives animatronic pumkins in time to music.



The shield with the large heat sink is a 20W car amplifier that will take the output from the wave shield and send it to some speakers. The larger shield is a riff on Laday Ada’s 12 Channel PWM controller. The difference is that this one is in a shield format and includes a DC to DC converter that will bring the 12V of the car battery down to the 6V maximum of the PWM chip.

I only just had enough time to assemble the boards, not test. But, hopefully,  I’ll have everything thing working correctly.

Red Lotus

All the other PPPRS cars got an upgrade post, it’d be a shame if Red Lotus didn’t get one too.


Before continuing, I should mention my involvement in this little beastie. I kind of got sucked into the Power wheels group at the space straight away: I joined the space in the middle of July, was riding around Baby Burrito for a parade the very next day, and went out to Detroit for my first PPPRS race a week or two later. Naturally, being a tiny little thing myself, I fell in love with this fast little car. (My goodness, I was so green at that Detroit race, there were orange treadmarks all over that course.) Red Lotus tends to eat through tires, but when we tried a new double-tire strategy, we had to cut the body to pieces in order to make more clearance for the wheels (and to use JakeNStein’s/Mr. Fusion’s batteries, but that’s a whole different story.) When we returned from Motor City, there was quite a lot of bodywork to do…

I started off by reconnecting the hood and the doors to the rear with a few screws and strips of aluminum siding. Then paint happened, because why not. After removing the old stencil work with Goof-Off (I had originally tried to paint over the old numbers, but they bled right through my paint), I sprayed on a thin coat of red with a heavy focus on clearing scuffs.


Once that was dry, I had a field day with some old Testor’s enamel. The door numbers didn’t turn out quite as well as I was hoping for, but painting out the license plate and Makerspace logo made my day instead. Note: silver enamel bleeds through everything you throw at it. It’s best to not fuss about it and just let it do what it wants.

IMG_20130829_224133 IMG_20130830_195906 IMG_20130901_001222

Then I made a nice thing on the hood with acrylic. I was originally going to try using enamel, but that’s a level I have yet to obtain. The work kept scratching off, so I put a good 3-4 extra coats of sealant on it.


Along with a fantastic new disc hub which was hand-machined by Tom, Tom, Tony, and a few other great guys (oh, and a mountain of 99 cent tires that hold up much better than anyone could have expected), the whole upgrade ended up quite fierce, I believe. 

The space went out to compete in the Fort Wayne Makerfaire soon after and we had a marvelous time. Got a bit scraped up, but I ain’t even mad. I think it gives the car more character that way. IMG_20130915_153648

After Indiana, we shipped out Red and JakeNStein out to New York for FINALS. However, there were a few fixes we needed to perform beforehand. We took home Red’s bent up left steering knuckle to straighten out and reinforce. Thanks to Dan, Joe, Tony, and Matt for helping me get that done in such a small time frame!

Once we were all fixed up and ready to race, Red Lotus did much better than anticipated. Along with Jake’s 3 silvers in the 25 lap heats and Endurance race, Red Lotus got a silver, a 4th, and a 6th in the 25 lap races, and  another 4th in the enduro. Red even won the Exhibition/for funzies race! All in all, I think we had a marvelous season, and I’m really happy and grateful for all the friends I’ve made and all the wonderful help I’ve received and all the cool stuff I learned. And of course, for the spectacular Milwaukee Makerspace for being the coolest pack of people ever.

Even though I’m sad the season is over, there’s still plenty to do in the off season. One thing is getting a more hefty pair of steering rods in place and putting in some stronger reinforcement for the steering knuckles. The amount of times I’ve had to pit this season from not being able to turn in a particular direction is just too darn high. Another top priority is getting a second motor onto the left rear wheel so the power is a bit more evenly distributed. However, that may make me too light to drive it without continuously drifting, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing…

Making a Game’s Box into it’s Board

So apparently I can only go a few months without ending up making a new game box. This time it is for a little card game called Kittens in a Blender. I know, I know. It sounds like I am going to have PETA kicking down the doors of MMS but it is a very enjoyable little card game for 2-8 players where you are trying to get all your kittens to the box and save them whilst getting all of your opponents kittens into the blender and dispatch them. I do not think I made that sound any less sadistic, but it is really a good game. If you ever can find it or get a chance to give it a go at a Con or at a friends I highly recommend it.

Getting back to the design now. In this game, like I said, you are essentially moving kittens around to a number of locations. 3 in play locations and 2 out of play locations. So, when I was thinking that I wanted a box for this game I decided that I should try and go for functionality and make the box, in essence, the board. Since there are 3 in play ‘buckets’ I took what I was doing with other boxes and just expanded it to three slots and increased the size to about 1.25 the size of the card so that they could be easily grabbed during play. And I added some labels on the lid for the two out of play buckets for blended and saved kittens.

Kittens in a Blender Box ClosedKittens In a Blender BoxKittens In a Blender Box Lid









Now this game lent itself really nicely to converting the box into the play area but I am sure there are lots of games that you could do something in the same vein as this for a lot of games. Similar to what I did for Zombie Dice where I made a cup with a locking lid or with Gosu where I added a turn counter and use the box as the draw and discard piles

Jake and the motor stack – the story of the largest motor in PPPRS racing

A long time ago (about 3 years) in a land far far away (my garage) some would be members of a Makerspace decided to build a few Power Wheels cars for the PPPRS race in Detroit.

One of the cars they selected was a plucky dump truck called Big Jake.

Big Jake ready for its 1st race

Big Jake ready for its 1st race

Well the first thing we did was pull out the stock motors (1 and 2) so we could install a surplus motor we had laying around (motor 3).

Jake's Original Motors

Jake’s Original Motors

(Sorry, we didn’t save any pictures of Motor 3)

Too bad this motor burned up – it was an odd motor anywaty, the commutator was a disk not a cylinder and the brushes were triangular – we found this out when we took the burned motor apart, doesn’t everyone take the thinks they break apart?

So we put in motor #4, a starter motor from a small gas engine, and it burned up – noticing a pattern here?

Jakes Motor #4

Jakes Motor #4

I think Fisher Price did as well – a recall about burning motors:


Then we installed a 1000W scooter motor and controller bought on-line and it was… ok.

Jakes 1000W scooter motor

Jakes 1000W scooter motor

We drilled holes in the motor and added a fan so it didn’t burn up.

But it wasn’t power full enough.

Then the big crash between Big Jake and the Yellow Escalade happened. And when the pieces were put back together – Jake N’ Stein was born.

(insert dramatic music here)

And of course such a majestic car need an equally majestic motor – so in went with a 4.5hp winch motor (#5)

4.5HP Winch Motor

4.5HP Winch Motor

Then it melted. So we took the motor from Little Pink Trike and put in on (motor #6) until we could rebuild motor #5 and put it back on (does that make it motor #7?)

Little Pink Trike's Motor

Little Pink Trike’s Motor

And it burned up.

Well we decided this wasn’t working so we did the only reasonable thing: bought a bigger winch motor! (#6/8) and it was good until it burned up.

6HP Winch Motor

6HP Winch Motor

So we re-installed the rebuilt 4.5hp motor (#5 or 9 depending on how you are counting) and added some gear reduction and it was fast until it burned up.

So back went the larger winch motor (#6/10) and added a water cooling system with some vent holes and it worked great, until we forgot to inject the water and siezed the bearings and melted the comutator – and almost got black flagged for being on fire, it was only steam!

So it came to pass, we looked around for the biggest motor we could find (too bad it was in a home brew electric car – 15″ diameter and about 200lbs) and decided to put a slightly smaller one in.

15 inch motor

15 inch motor

So motor 7/11 (lucky numbers right?) is

Jake's new MotorJake’s new Motor

Just how big is Jake N’ Stein’s new motor?

Well is 11″ long, 7.5″ in diameter and weighs around 80 pounds.

But how powerful is it?

Well, it used to haul around 6000 pounds of stuff in a warehouse all day long.

But how may horse power is it?

I don’t know, but Jake runs really nice :-)

5 of Jake's Motors

5 of Jake’s Motors