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.

Nick Offerman, Come On Down!

Nick Offerman

You probably know Nick Offerman from NBC’s Parks and Recreation, though if you’re a maker, you may know him better for his woodworking skills. (There’s a great video tour of his workshop you should see.)

Well, Nick’s coming to Milwaukee February 23rd, 2013 for a show at The Pabst Theater, and while we’re sure he’s a busy man, we’d like to invite him to Milwaukee Makerspace to check out our workshop. We’ve got a nice collection of tools and a great group of makers who would love to show Nick some of the things we’ve made and talk about our love of wood.

Check out Offerman Woodshop for some of his amazing work, and if you’re on Twitter, ask @Nick_Offerman to swing by Milwaukee Makerspace and check it out!

Digi-Comp Making

Digi-Comp II
Photo by Windell Oskay

I love a good blog post! And I really love a good blog post about the process of making things! From selecting the proper wood, to cutting, laser-etching, assembling, and packaging, this blog post has it all. I’m taking about The Making of the Digi-Comp II, First Edition from our friends at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.

There’s a great/amusing comment on the post:

When’s the official air date on “How It’s Made”? :D

It’s funny because it is a long and detailed post about the process of making something (disclaimer: I’m a fan of shows like How It’s Made) but I don’t think a maker version of How It’s Made is a bad idea! Hmmm, maybe that’s what the MAKE TV show is going to be.

Snow-Globe Video

Just a minor update here from my recent Snow-Globe blog entry ( http://milwaukeemakerspace.org/2012/12/custom-snow-globe/ )

I made two VIDEOS about the snow-globe. The first is just a brief video showing the finished project. The second video is a longer “How-To” which includes some video, but is mostly a photo slide-show of all the steps I took to create the project.

For an in-depth step-by-step of how I built the project, check out the info I posted on Instructables. http://www.instructables.com/id/Custom-Singing-Snow-Globe/

-Ben

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.

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!

Cacophonator Enters The RPM Challenge!

At Noon today, the Cacophonator decided to enter the RPM Challenge!  This challenge is simple: Compose and record an album entirely during the month of Februrary, be that 10 individual songs or a single 35+ minute track of original material!  After a thirteen second test, Cacophonator was proven to not be up to this challenge as a solo act – It’s just too loud.  Enter Mohoganator: The distortion reducing, level adjusting perfect partner for this challenge.

The Dynamic Duo of Cacophonator and Mohoganator teamed up with Auditionator (I.E. Adobe Audition) to record a session for 10 minutes and 32 seconds at a blazing fast 192kHz sample rate.  This recording was then slowed down to the customary rate of 44.1kHz, thereby expanding the work to its final 45.5 minute length.  Within twenty minutes after the recording was made, Cacophonator had a profile set up on the RPM Challenge site and the piece normalized, saved as a low bit rate mp3 and uploaded.  You’ve read that correctly, in less time than it takes to listen to this piece, it was composed, recorded, processed, mastered and uploaded.  Talk about Non-Causal Audio Delight!  Check out the piece here, by scrolling down to “my player.” This all happened very fast, but Cacophonator still isn’t quite finished – it hasn’t yet mailed a CD to RPM HQ, 10 Vaughan Mall, Suite 201 Portsmouth, NH 03801.  Interested participants still have over 11 days to enter the challenge!

The Tool At Hand

The Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) and Chipstone Foundation recently invited an international selection of artists to create art objects using only a single tool. Works made using just one tool, be that a saw, glue applicator, pin vise, utility knife, etc are on display at MAM now through March, 2012.  More information about the works in the museum can be found at artbable.org.  Interestingly, the Chipstone Foundation has extended the offer to all Milwaukee area artists, creatives, and makers to enter their own single tool work in a show at Sweet Water Organics on March 17th from 1-5pm. Three works will be selected to join the works already at the Milwaukee Art Museum for the remainder of March.  If you are interested in participating, email Claudia at Chipstone.org as space is limited.

Tool At Hand TableInspired by the Chipstone Foundation’s origins in collecting furniture and decorative arts, and to gain some experience with my chosen tool (Angle grinder with chainsaw cutting disk), I created a small table (and piles of sawdust) in an hour or two yesterday.  After seeing the works at MAM and watching the videos on the website, I realized there are various interpretations for “one” tool,  including “two,” “three,” and “five.”  With this creative numerical spirit, notice that this one tool work has legs attached with wooden dowels inserted into holes made by a second(!) tool: A drill. Don’t worry though, I used the angle grinder to pound in the dowels.