Be careful what you ask for!

Zamboni 6 photo

Several months ago, a humorous request went out for a Zamboni that could be used on the Nerdy Derby track.

Last year the Milwaukee Makerspace held a Maker Fest and a Nerdy Derby track was made for the occasion. The design allowed the track to be disassembled in 4 foot long sections.

When the track was reassembled, earlier this year, for the South Side Chicago Maker Faire, it was found that the joints did not match up as well as when it was first put together. Small ledges, that went up and down, would cause the cars to bounce off the track or hit the bottom of the car. Both of these scenarios prevented the cars from traveling freely down the track.

As many of you know, we just had a GREAT Maker Faire here in Milwaukee last month and the Nerdy Derby track was needed again!

We produced, and ran, over 1000 Nerdy Derby cars over the 2 day event. Wow!

Zamboni 10 photo

A month or so before the event I started working on an idea for a Zamboni type of device. My first thought was of a custom contoured planer that could be used at each joint to smooth them out. This idea seemed like too much work so I proceeded forward with my second design. This consisted of a simple sled hat used a drum sander, which smoothed out the high spots. Wood putty was then used to fill in any low spots.

 

Laser Cut Road Trip Coasters: Improved!

I used the Makerspace 60 Watt laser cutter to make coasters that show the path of some road trips I’ve taken.  That way I can enjoy the sweet irony of sitting on my couch enjoying a tasty beverage while having thoughts of travel!  This project was somewhat inspired by mmassie’s OpenPaths Zurich vacation keep sake project.

As I don’t use OpenPaths, I used Google maps to plot the course of past road trips, and simply took screen captures.  I wanted to create vector images with hairline width (0.001″) lines so the laser cutter can make each coaster in 45 seconds instead of 20 minutes. There are many ways to generate vector data using these raster .png images. I chose to semi-manually edit out unnecessary parts of the images using GIMP, and then used Inkscape to extract vector data from the resulting simplified images.  If you’re new to these tools, just search for “Inkscape raster to vector” tutorial videos.  An alternate approach is to just import the raster image into Inkscape, and use the Bézier line tool to trace the important paths.  Yes it is manual, but this alternate method also only takes 5 minutes to complete.

The coasters are cut from 3/16″ 4″ x 24″ solid basswood using fairly standard settings of 100% power, with 100% speed for etching, and 3.5% speed for cutting.

trio_s

I made quite a few coasters, and above is a photo of three of them. The coaster on top is a rail trip through Italy, the second is a 1000 km, 12 day (right hand) drive through Ireland, and the last is a much longer than 12 day road trip through the southwest – note the vertical and horizontal lines are the state borders of NV/NM/CO/UT.

A few days later, after polishing my vector editing skills in Inkscape, I made an improved version of the above three coasters.  I added circles to more clearly highlight each stop, and I etched the names of each stop on the reverse side of each coaster.  One group of raster to vector settings I used in Inkscape resulted in the creation of two sets of (closely spaced) hairlines for the outline of Italy, as shown in the coaster above.  I really liked how distinct the outline of Italy is relative to the path of the trip.  I chose to intentionally create two offset hairlines for the other country or border outlines, using Inkscape’s linked-offset path command.

Check out the new and improved design of the front, with dual country/border outlines and circles to denote the stops:

Three_Coasters_Front_Improved

Check out the reverse sides of these coasters shown below, with names of each stop etched on them. Albuquerque.

Three_Coasters_Back_Improved

Weekend Project: End Table

This weekend I made an end table for my living room.  Its in the style of two night stands I made, this one for the tool at hand contest, and this second one! The legs of this series of small tables are getting increasingly eccentric.  To build it, I started with three pieces of 2×12 lumber, and a 1/2″ diameter dowel rod.  I avoided using metal fasteners, and instead used only wood glue and 8 3″ long dowel pegs to attach the legs to ensure that sculpting the table with my chainsaw-blade-equipped angle grinder would be safe(r).  To save some labor with the grinder, I actually cut some of the zig-zag legs with a band saw first.  Even with the pre-cutting, I ended up making 1.5 cubic feet of wood chips and saw dust.

EndTable

Argyle Pattern Cutting Board

My latest cutting board is a based on a design I saw online.  It’s built around an argyle pattern that is often found on sweaters.

The first step is to glue a 1.5″ x 1.5″ pieces of poplar and red oak together in a 2 x 2 grid pattern. Additionally, one(1) red oak and two(2) poplar pieces are glues in a “L” shape. Each assembly is about 10″ long. Then, each assembly is sliced into 3/4″ pieces on the table saw or the chop saw. We need eight(8) of the 2×2 pieces and ten “L” shaped ones. The picture below shows the final intended layout.

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In the next step, the hard maple borders are added. The following picture shows some of the earliest glue-ups.

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Then, the edges are trimmed and walnut is added to the outside. I chose to use a CNC router to flatten the cutting board surface.

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I soaked the  board in mineral oil for 24 hours and finished with some butcher block conditioner and voila!

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Robbie is safely enclosed!

Finished room!

Whew.  This project was a D-O-O-O-ZY!  We needed to enclose our giant industrial arm so he can’t run away and join the robot circus…

Well…maybe not for THAT reason, but when we start cutting stuff with this robot, we need to keep spectators out of his reach and make sure that if a cutting bit does break, it doesn’t go flying out into the shop and maim someone.

This entire project was the work of several people and really shows why the Milwaukee Makerspace is a great place to build stuff/hang out with friends/play with power tools, etc…

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Step 1: Design it!  I used Solidworks and modeled each and every piece of wood that went into this project.

SW screen capture

Step 2: get the wood!  We made multiple trips to Home Depot, which thankfully is only 5 minutes away and we had great weather during the whole building process.  I love having a truck!  Fortune also shined upon me, as we had a new member join up right before I started this project, Jake R., and his help in building the wall was immeasurable.

Get the wood!

Step 3: Bolt the wood to the floor so we know where to put the wall, and then build some framing!

  4 - put in windows

Step 4: Put in the windows, drywall paneling and metal wainscoting.  We were very lucky to get seven pieces of slightly-smoked Lexan from one of our members, Jason H.  We also cut small holes in the ceiling tiles and ran 4 braces up to the metal ceiling trusses above.  This enclosure is ROCK-solid stable!  Thanks to Tony W. and Jim R. for helping with that!

When I went to Home Depot, I thought my truck could handle a 48″x 120″ sheet of drywall.  Not so much… one of their employees helped me split 10 sheets of drywall in half, in the parking lot…so I would later find out that I did not have drywall tall enough for the wall corner.  Hence the need for more “framing” so I could use smaller pieces.

10 - outer framing

The large cabinet that powers the robot arm is right next to the enclosure; I placed it outside to keep it away from foam & wood shavings.  However, we will need to have the programming pendant next to the machine every now and then….hence the need for 2 small pass-thru doors next to the cabinet.

6 - hole for mini-door

11 - outer door installed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used doweling to help hold the door frame components together…..probably not needed, but it ensures a STRONG door!

16 - drilling door frames  15 - door framing 1

Again, hooooray for the Makerspace and all its tools! We have several LONG pipe clamps that came in VERY handy for gluing the door frame pieces together.

17 - frame glued up - 1

Here’s the outside of the enclosure.  The big metal control cabinet will go right here, hence the framed “mouse hole” in the lower right corner so we can pass the cables through from the cabinet to the robot arm.

13 - outer door and mouse hole

The same area viewed from inside the enclosure.

14 - inner door and mouse hole

Here’s the ginormous sliding door.  It’s mounted on a barn-door track-rail and supported on the bottom by two custom-made wheel brackets.

23 - finished door on track

Here’s how I made the wheel brackets.  I got two lawnmower-style wheels and bearings from Tom G., then Tom K. enlarged the center holes on the wheels on his Bridgeport mill so I could use bearings for smoother action.

18 - wheels in slot - 1

I figured on four carriage bolts for a super-strong connection to the door frame.

19 - wheel assembly done

This is the track and wheel bogies that hold the sliding door to the wall.

22 - wheels and track

Bolting the brackets onto the door was “fun”…I forgot that the very bottom of the door framing is two horizontal pieces, so the very bottom bolt had to go.  ‘DOH!

21 - inside door frame 1

Here’s the final, assembled view.  You can see the robot’s control cabinet in the lower right corner.

Now that the fabrication is complete, we’re working on decorative ideas for all that blank-looking drywall.

24 - finished room!

Whenever I look at this finished project it feels like to took several months to get it up, even though construction only lasted about 2-1/2 weeks.

Thanks to Jake R., Tom G., Tom K., Tony W., Jim R., and Bill W. for their assistance with this project!

Weekend Project: Planter Boxes!

Last weekend I made three huge, turquoise planter boxes for my rooftop deck – check out the quarter for scale.  Naturally, help from other Makerspace members was key, as I relied on JackD and his JAMbulence for help transporting two sheets of plywood (Thanks!).  I safely sliced ‘em up on the panel saw, and then glued, screwed and nailed them together.  After applying numerous coats of outdoor latex paint and a bit of sanding, they’re already in use in downtown Milwaukee!

Planter_Box

Weekend Project: Kitchen Shelf

I’ve recently heard that the Milwaukee Makerspace has a reputation for only having members who are electronics enthusiasts. Well, in addition to the metal, wood, beerwater, whisky, fire, arduino, weldingoddaudiocasting, and numerous acoustic projects that I’ve worked on at the Makerspace, I’ve finished a few electronics projects here. My latest Makerspace weekend project is a shelf for my kitchen, pictured here with the Sad Bananaand three legged pig®.

Kitchen Shelf

Preschool playset remodel.

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My youngest son and nephews pre-school is tiny. Literally it’s two classrooms, but it’s a great environment for them both which includes identical playsets in each class.

Hundreds if not thousands of kids have played on them. Being built in the 80’s when building codes weren’t as strict, they were no longer compliant.

While the wood is still good, had been sanded well and sealed well there were a few problems.  The banister rails been deemed to be too short and the handrails needed to have another one put on the bottom under the other two on either side.

The choices were to surround the play sets with a 6 foot giant landing mat around the sides, or to raise the banister rails and add another handrail. A landing pad would have taken up far too much room in the class so I volunteered to rebuild some of the rails so they met code.

Because construction was going to take a little while (actually it turned out to be a long while, started before Christmas it was finished in early April), the rail cutting / routing / sanding was going to take place off site and then assembled onsite during a weekend afternoon

First thing was to take lots of pictures, and lots of measurements.

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I did up some high-level sketches just showing how the rails would be raised.

 

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The next step was to cut up a whole pile of 2”x2” rails to the desired height with a 45 angel cut on the ends to match what was originally there. The rails also had been rounded off with a quarter round router bit, so I did that as well.

 

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I knew there was no way I could match the old finish that was on the original wood so I decided to go with something a bit brighter and engaging for the kids mixing blue, red, green and white paints that I had my son pick out. Then it was just a matter of cutting and routing. Here are some shots of the wood after cutting but being painted. The coats ranged from 4-5 to get a deep coverage and then 3 coats of a clear poly to brighten it up.

 

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By some miracle the measurements all turned out perfect, which is nearly a first for me. We still have the bottom hand rail to make but that will be easy to do.

Tabletop Game Boxes

With Tabletop Day approaching and my great affinity for complicated rules attached to cardboard (see picture on leftDSCF0722 of what should be my linen closet) I thought it would be the perfect time to work on a few projects to improve some games that I much enjoy. On top of some other, smaller things I decided that the boxes that come with a great majority of card games are kind of worthless. Take for example. Gloom. A fantastic game in which you try to make your family as miserable as possible before killing them off in horrid ways all the time trying to make your opponents family happy so they cannot do the same (I realize I sound crazy but if you come down to the MakerSpace this Saturday I will have it so you should give it a shot. It really is fantastic). While the game is fantastic it came in was one of those that has the bump of cardboard in the middle between the two stacks of cards that is supposedly, in some fantasy universe where cards have different physics than everything else, supposed to keep them separate. This never works and the box usually breaks fairly quickly.

Being utterly fed-up with these boxes I decided to make my own for 3 games. Gloom, Cthulhu Gloom, and GOSU: Tactics. With the first two this also has the added benefit of being able to make the box large enough that I can fit expansions in with the base game and in the case of GOSU it is an opportunity to make a box that better fits sleeved cards and add a 3 turn counter to keep track of the round after the pass (If you have played GOSU you know it can get a little hazy when some people are taking a whole slew of turns per round).

After some playing with Inkscape, cutting out the first one on the laser cutter, realizing I suck at measuring, cutting things again, some gluing, and several layers of shellac later I had a few new boxes.

I had several people ask me how it was that I achieved this look on Baltic birch plywood so I thought I would go over that quickly. TheCGloom Box Open

inner part was just rag stained with some dark Minwax stain (I think it was Red Mahogany) so nothing special there but it adds a nice contrast to the lighter outside I feel. The outside is an amber shellac. I just applied 5-6 coats with a heavy sanding between the first two and a very light sanding between the rest. Nothing too exciting but it really makes this plain wood look pretty decent.